NEW DELHI: Indian Railways has extended an agreement with Pakistan linking the two countries through the Munabao-Khokhrapar rail line. Munabao Railway station falls on the Jodhpur Division of North Western Railway in Rajasthan.
The extension comes at a time tension prevailed along the border between the two countries in Jammu and Kashmir.
The agreement to link the two countries by rail was signed in 2006 to facilitate people-to-people contact, officials said.
The agreement was set to expire in March 2018, but has now been extended to January 31, 2021.
The two sides currently have only two trans-border trains. The Samjhauta Express operates on the Delhi-Lahore route via the Attari-Wagah border crossing and carries both passengers and freight.
The Thar Express links Jodhpur and Karachi via the Munabao-Khokhrapar border crossing and carries only passengers.
The Munabao-Khokhrapar link was destroyed by Pakistan during the 1965 war between the two countries. The service was revived after 41 years in February 2006.
“We are fine to extend the rail link. The train, Thar Express, is pre-booked till March 2018,” a railway official told.
Munabao railway station is at an elevation of 80 metres (260 ft) and was assigned the code – MBF
A 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3⁄8 in) wide metre gauge line from Luni to Shadipalli, in Sind, was built by Indians across the Thar desert in 1902 with the funding from the then Bombay Presidency (under British Rule) and the line from Shadipalli to Hyderabad (now in Pakistan) was re-gauged. The Luni-Barmer-Munabao section was converted to 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) wide broad gauge in 2004.
According to a 1929 issue of the Indian Railway Gazette, the Sind Mail used to run on this route between Ahmedabad and Hyderabad-Sindh. The route was in use with through services between Jodhpur and Karachi till around 1965. On the Pakistan side, Khokhrapar was the terminus of a metre gauge branch line from Hyderabad-Sindh via Mirpur Khas, 135 km from the border.
The rail link across Munabao-Khokhrapar border was restored in 2006. As per the agreement between Indian and Pakistan railways, the Thar Express travels once a week from Karachi during a six-month block, crosses the international border, and the passengers change over to an Indian train at Munabao for their onward journey to Bhagat Ki Kothi in Jodhpur.
On the Indian side the Thar Link Express runs non-stop once a week from Bhagat Ki Kothi (near Jodhpur) to Munabao and back. Pakistan Railways have set up a new railway station at Zero Point. There is a passenger train linking Munabao to Barmer, which runs on all days except Monday