Dubai: The Samjhauta Express — the only train link between Indian and Pakistan — becomes the first casualty whenever there is tension between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
In India, the train service is also called Attari Special Express – Delhi-Attari-Delhi service.
The train, which was suspended on February 28 due to escalated tension between India and Pakistan, left from Lahore on Monday after which it remained suspended for four days.
It departed Lahore railway station with more than 150 passengers on board.
The train, which is known as the only travel link for common people from both the countries, operates twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays.
“Most passengers today were Indians who were stranded at Lahore Railway Station for the past four days because the service was suspended due to safety concerns,” a senior Railway officer told Gulf News from Lahore.
He said the train will operate from Lahore to Wagah-Attari border. Similarly, the Samjhauta Express will also bring back Pakistani passengers from India. The next train is scheduled to operate on Thursday as usual.
He said the railway administration hosted the Indian passengers with strict security at the station’s waiting room.
Tensions escalated dramatically between Pakistan and India on February 14 after a suicide bomb attack killing more than 40 Indian soliders in Pulwama. The tension further escalated between the two countries when the Indian Air Force struck on an alleged terrorist camp in Balakot in Pakistan on February 26.
What is Samjhota Express
The train service between India and Pakistan is named Samjhota which in Hindi and Urdu means "accord" or "agreement".
Samjhota Express operates twice a week between Lahore and Delhi.
Actually, it is one route operated by two trains. From Pakistan side, the Samjhota Express train operates from Lahore to Attari –a small train station in Amritsar district of India located around three kilometres awary from Wagah border.
The Samjhauta Express service is a Pakistani owned train while Attari Special Express is an Indian owned train.
The Indian side of Samjhauta Express operates from Delhi to Attari station. At this station, the passengers travelling from Pakistan to India and India to Pakistan change trains after clearing immigration and customs formalities.
According to the railway officials, the footfall of the train, which generally records an occupancy of around 70 per cent, had fallen drastically post the Pulwama attack. The Samjhauta Exspress comprises of six sleeper coaches and an AC 3-tier coach.
When it started
The Samjhauta Express is the only train link between India and Pakistan. The train service was first launched on July 22, 1976 and initially ran between Amritsar (India) and Lahore (Pakistan). It was a daily train when the service started, and changed to a bi-weekly schedule in 1994.
In the 41 years of its history, the bi-weekly train was discontinued a number of times.
Termed as the ‘Peace or Friendship Train’, it is the only transport link catering to the needs of common people on both sides. It is mostly used by people who have families on both sides of the border since the 1947 "partition".
It is also used by thousands from the Sikh community in India who travel to Pakistan for pilgrimage.
Strict security measures are taken during the run as police commandos are deployed in each compartment of the train. Security on the train was further tightened after bomb blasts which ripped through the train in India in February 2007 killing more than 60 passengers and injuring dozens.
A ticket to the Samjhauta Express is issued only to those who have a valid visa. All the seats on the train are pre-booked.
The distance between Lahore Central Railway Station to Attari Railway Station is around 25 km but it can take up to six hours for this train journey due to complicated immigration and customs requirements. Distance from Attari to Old Delhi Railway Station is around 472 km.