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December 8, 2018

Steam rail enthusiasts happy with vintage Safari train revival


December 8, 2018

PESHAWAR: Steam rail enthusiasts have welcomed the announcement by the government to resume the vintage Khyber Steam Safari.

Responding to a question during his recent visit to Peshawar, Railway Minister Sh Rasheed Ahmad had stated that he has instructed railway officials to meet private representatives to restart the vintage Khyber Steam Safari from Peshawar and also between Golra Railway Museum and Taxila.

The minister had stated that the Peshawar to Landikotal railway track that had been washed away due to floods and it had not been repaired for lack of funds in the past, but it would now be revamped.

In this connection, a study is being conducted to lay down a new track from Peshawar to Shalman in the Khyber tribal district, according to the minister.

Shafiqullah Khan, a railways expert and member of Pakistan Railway Heritage Society, met local steam enthusiasts in Peshawar recently. He is credited with helping to set up PR’s Golra Museum and restoration of the Attock Khurd railway station.

He was confident that if there was a will, the Khyber Steam Safari could be fully operationalised with minimal resources.

Shafiqullah Khan suggested utilising the century-old Railway Institute Club building presently lying vacant as a base for the revival of steam railways for tourism purposes and displaying of artifacts from the erstwhile North-Western Railways or NWR.

The participants welcomed Tourism Corporation Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (TCKP) interest in resuming the tourist train between Peshawar and Attock Khurd.

They were informed that the TCKP managing director and Railways deputy superintendent held discussions with the group.

Zahoor Durrani, CEO of Sehrai Travels, which ran the Khyber Steam Safari service from Peshawar to Landikotal for tourists between1990-2008 stated: “The world famous Khyber Steam rail that used to ply between Peshawar-Landikotal as a tourist train was discontinued owing to militancy in the tribal region in 2008. The flash floods and lack of maintenance over the years have rendered the track unusable at multiple places. With the merger of erstwhile Fata into KP, there is an opportunity to revive this fabulous tourist attraction and rehabilitate the British-era railway infrastructure which is our national heritage of international fame.”

He stated: “The tourist train was featured on the cover of TIME magazine and listed among the top 5 train journeys of the world.”

In the interim period while the Khyber tracks are repaired, it would be worthwhile to functionalise one of the two-century-old vintage steam engines parked at the Peshawar loco-shed and run them between the Peshawar to Attock Khurd route for tourism purposes, he suggested.

KP Tourism Think-Tank member, Ali Jan said: “The steam rail’s revival after the restoration of peace in the KP-Fata post-merger setting would not only give confidence to the public at large but also improve the image of Pakistan Railways and KP and Pakistan globally. It would lead to economic benefits and job creation through tourism”.

He said, “in brief, the gains achieved from its revival for the entire region are numerous, far-reaching and wide in scope”.

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