India suspends Thar Express

Jaipur: The Indian Railways on Friday suspended the operation of the Thar Express weekly that connected Jodhpur with Karachi. Forty-five passengers had booked their tickets from this train that connected India with Pakistan. The train operated from Jodhpur’s Bhagat Ki Kothi station to Munabao and would go up to Khokhrapar on the Pakistan side.

The chief public relations officer of the North Western Railway, Abhay Sharma, said on August 9 Pak Railway minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed had announced the train to India on August 9 would be doing its last run. Earlier, the Samjahuta Express from Delhi to Attari in Pakistan was suspended.

This decision to cancel Samjhauta Exp on the Indian side of the border came days after Pak suspended services on its side. The train ran on Sundays from Delhi to Attari and back, while Pakistan ran the train between Lahore and Attari. Passengers used to change trains at Attari.

The Railways’ decision to cancel Samjhauta Express on the Indian side came days after Pak suspended services. Pakistan suspended the Samjhauta and the Thar Express trains amid tensions between the two neighbours after the Centre abrogated the Article 370 and bifurcated J&K into two UTs.

Thar Express was useful for passengers from Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Delhi and Haryana, who would visit their relatives in Pakistan, and likewise, the residents of the Sindh province, particularly those from Karachi and Hyderabad (Sindh) found it easier to travel.

Even before Independence, the train, then known as Sindh Mail, connected Jodhpur with Karachi. The services were suspended after the 1965 Indo-Pak conflict and rebag in February 2006.

Thar Express travels along the Hyderabad-Khokhrapar branch line built in 1892. Prior to 1965, the last station was Khokhrapar railway station, about 10 kms from the border.

When the new service began in 2006, Pakistan Railways constructed a new station, called Zero Point railway station, a few hundred metres away from the border, where immigration and customs checks are carried out now.

Six kms apart, Munabao railway station is located on the Indian side of the border in Barmer where Indian immigration and customs checks are carried out. The trip used to take nearly seven hours to cover a published distance of 381 kms.

By Prakash Bhandari