The saying old is gold applies aptly to the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government’s suggestion to get British-era steam locomotives up and running to revive tourism.
The proposal, forwarded by the Sports, Culture, Tourism, Youth Affairs/Archaeology & Museums department, points towards two locomotives dating back to the early 1900’s when steam engines were the order of the day.
An official from the railways ministry confirmed the development to The Express Tribune, adding the matter is being discussed.
The vintage engines include steam locomotives HGS-2-8 OS manufactured by the Vulcan Foundry and Kitson and Co in Preston, United Kingdom.
An insider says the proposal is to take a business venture with Pakistan Railways into consideration. The options include either running the two locomotives in collaboration with a profit margin or hand the engine over to the relevant department for the necessary maintenance and operational costs.
Prior to this, the locomotives were leased out to a private firm on a profit margin share and ran on the track from Peshawar to Landikotal till 2007. However, because of the emerging security situation in the area, the Khyber Steam Safari stretched to a halt and has never been revived.
Read: Khyber Steam Safari train resumes its magic after 2007
In the following years, the railway track through Khyber Agency was washed away in a heavy flood. The remaining parts were either stolen or sold off by locals, claim officials.
A railways official says it is impossible to run the train to Khyber Agency, however, it seems like a feasible option to continue towards Attock and further. All of this remains dependent on the outcome of the proposal.
Another official from the Ministry of Tourism says countries throughout the world lease out engines for the tourism industry to thrive. He adds the move is “a last great push to bring K-P out of war”
A spokesperson for the K-P’s culture and tourism department confirms the development, saying the proposal has been sent to the railways ministry and an outcome is awaited.
“The trains will be used for tourism,” says an official of the TCKP. He recalls in April, 2015, a locomotive started running between Peshawar and Attock Khurd in Punjab. This is a collaborative effort of Pakistan Railway and Sehrai Travels. The use of British-era locomotives in Peshawar on a commercial basis has yielded fruitful results and attracted local tourists. The two-bogey locomotive was given to the TCKP after which it was completely renovated, concludes the official.
On World Tourism Day on September 27, history buffs were treated to a train excursion from Peshawar to Attock Khurd. The safari train took members of various youth organisations.
Read: With control over deficit, Pak Railways beats target
Attock Khurd is situated on the eastern bank of Indus River near an old iron girder bridge which was built in 1883 and connects K-P to Punjab. The train tour offers a rare glimpse of a section of the historic Rawalpindi–Landikotal route. The journey begins from Peshawar Cantonment Railway station and passes by Balahisar Fort.
The train passes through seven colonial era tunnels; the last one is called Aornos, named after the site of Alexander the Great’s final siege before he crossed the Indus to India. The train then crosses the mighty river over the old Attock Bridge and makes its final stop at Attock Khurd Railway Station.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 12th, 2015.