A train ride across the country is an attractive option for those who find airplane travel too expensive. Not only is the cost of the journey halved, one is served full meals onboard as well as, hot and cold beverages in the evening and early morning.
For someone with as little travelling experience as me, a 20-hour ride from Lahore to Karachi was an exciting opportunity. It became memorable in more ways than one.
Given the length of the journey, we opted for a sleeper compartment which initially felt quite spacious but when night fell, and sleepers had to be pulled down to accommodate everybody suddenly became congested.
Soon after our Jinnah Express left Lahore at 2.30pm, we were all comfortable in our own little corners. Our devices were plugged into electrical sockets and we were ready to binge-watch tv serials on online. Since we had brought homemade food for the trip, mealtimes passed by rather uneventfully. Beside that, we also polished off snacks and sandwiches served to us by the railway staff. Much to our delight, they also gave us personal kits comprising toothbrushes, toothpaste, tissue paper and other items.
Time passed by fast. Before going to bed, I decided to use the toilet, thinking it must have improved since last year. This was, unfortunately, not true. The lady who went in before me came out completely drenched in water and warned me of a faulty pipe that burst next to her. Still I decided to brave it. As soon as I closed the door, water began to spray from pipes and soaked me from waist down. After all was said and done, and I had returned to my compartment, only a copious amount of hand sanitizer slathered all over my hands and wrists made me feel better.
Another thing to note was our oddly long stops at some train stations. Usually, a stop shouldn’t last for more than 10 to 15 minutes, however, at many stops, we’d be there for upwards of 30 to 40 minutes. This, we found out, was due to multiple repairs taking place along the railway tracks. At one point, we saw a completely burned train. We were told the train had caught fire due to a mishap that occurred while the crew was preparing food. Shrugging it off as a one-time incident, we went back to our conversations.
At around 5.00am, we reached Hyderabad. The duration of this stop was much longer than expected. Once again, upon asking, we found out that we had stopped indefinitely because a passenger train had crashed into a freight train. Apparently, the accident was caused by human error in manually switching tracks. The rest of the ride was slower than usual, thus causing a delay of three hours at the end of the journey.
The only way we can make train travel comfortable is by ensuring the safety of passengers. Train collisions must stop. Onboard sanitation must improve. Delays must be controlled. Trains are only incredibly cost-efficient. With the right facilities, they can also make for a memorable experience for everyone.