In recent years the Pakistani rail network has become a byword for mismanagement and neglect. Rolling stock is old, trains are frequently delayed, and stations have not been improved since the days of the Raj. However, in May 2015 Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif inaugurated the “Green Line Express”, marking the first major investment in the railways for some time.
The Green Line runs from the Margalla Station in the capital, Islamabad, all the way to Karachi, stopping at place such as Rawalpindi, Lahore, Bahawalpur, and Hyderabad, among others. I recently took the Green Line from Islamabad to Lahore with my son and father. The train itself is shiny and new, with a Chinese locomotive and locally-made carriages. The driver was happy to show us into the engine, much to my son’s delight, and was clearly proud of being involved with such a modern project.
Seating was comfortable, in 6-berth sleeper compartments, consisting of three bunks on either side of the carriage. Refreshments are frequently served – sandwiches and the ubiquitous Pakistani chai – and I understand that a full cooked meal is served to those continuing all the way to Karachi, though as we were only going to Lahore we were not able to partake. Amenity kits, consisting of a toothbrush, toothpaste, a comb, a shoe mitt and soap were handed out. Each compartment has six pillows and thick fleecy blankets, as well as a flatscreen TV. WiFi was supposed to be offered but it never worked for us!
We left on time and arrived in Lahore on time. On our return journey the train arrived fifteen minutes late – not bad, considering it had travelled something like 1300km through unseasonably heavy rain and localised flooding! We enjoyed chatting to the many friendly Pakistani people on the train who were all hospitable, kind, and eager to share their food with us.
Prices are slightly more expensive than regular trains or buses – but the Green Line is immeasurably more comfortable and a much better way of meeting Pakistani people. I would recommend it without reservation – but be sure to book tickets in good time as the service is very popular.