Commonwealth Games 2010
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India, Pakistan agree on easing travel restrictions

Indian freight trains allowed up to Lala Musa, Jehlum for cement procurement 
Pakistan reluctant to initiate Munabao-Khokrapar freight services

18 Jun 08. NEW DELHI: Pakistani and Indian railway officials concluded their three-day meetings on Thursday deciding to speed up immigration formalities at borders and double the number and capacity of freight trains running between the two countries. 

Railway Director Operations Shafiqullah Khan led the six-member Pakistani delegation, while Additional Member Traffic RN Verma headed the 9-member Indian delegation during the meetings. In an important development, Pakistan offered to allow the Indian goods trains to go up to Lala Musa and Jehlum, the main cement producing regions, to lift cement. In turn, the Pakistani goods trains carrying cement would be allowed to run up to Delhi. The decisions were made keeping in view the increasing cement demand of the Indian capital preparing for the 2010 Commonwealth Games. 

Cement would make as much as 68 percent of the freight leaving Pakistan for India. Talking to reporters at conclusion of the negotiations, Khan said the frequency of the goods trains between the two countries via Attari would be increased from four to ten trains every day. Each country would run four to five trains. 

"Our endeavour is to transport goods in the shortest possible time," he said. Both sides agreed to experiment running longer goods trains by increasing wagons in each train from existing 72 to 140. 

The capacity of these wagons will be increased in due course of time, the two sides agreed. "Presently we have 24-tonne wagons, but we have placed orders with various countries and agencies to help increase their capacity," said the Pakistani head of delegation. Introduction of some eight wheeler wagons from Pakistan and a possibility of running container trains between India and Pakistan also came up for discussions.

Reluctant: Pakistan expressed reservations about starting freight services between Munabao and Khokrapar. Adequate infrastructure is not in place for the operation, officials said, although they added the route connecting Rajasthan with Sindh was profitable only once the freight services were introduced. Both sides also agreed to restrict the luggage per passenger to 35 kilogrammes and to levy heavy penalty for extra baggage. The meeting also recommended improving the process of documentation and certification for agricultural products. The recommendations are aimed at enabling speedy movement of the goods. It also decided to increase facilities for passengers and ease immigration formalities. India offered to provide in advance a list of passengers' along with their profiles to immigration authorities at Attari for quick clearance of the passengers. The Pakistani official, however, expressed difficulty in exchanging the passenger lists. 

Indian authorities have 12 hours to process the lists for the passengers boarding the train at Delhi, while it is just half an hour from Lahore to Attari, the officials pointed out. The Pakistani delegation, accompanied by Pakistan High Commissioner in India Shahid Malik, met Indian Railway Minister Lalu Prasad.



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