SLAMABAD: The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is bringing further avenues of investments and cooperation for Pakistan as well as ease to the people of both the countries as a local private transport company is all set to launch a bus service connecting Pakistan and China from November 3 under the flagship project.
The new bus service called Pakistan-China bus service is launched by Shuja group under their brand name of Shuja Express which will cover the one-way journey in two days (approximately 30 hours of travel time).
According to chief executive officer of the company Muhammad Anwar, the new bus service is expected to start regular operations from Nov 3 (today).
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“It will be in operation four days a week, that is, Monday, Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday from Lahore to Chinese border city of Kashgar, and same manner from Kashgar to Lahore on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday,” said the CEA. “The bus will set off at 12pm (local time) from Lahore and at first it will reach federal capital Islamabad where breakfast will be served. Then the bus will stop in northern Mansehra city for tea. Next stopover will be at Bisham for lunch. Passengers will be offered evening tea at Chilas and lavish dinner at Gilgit.”
Anwar said the passengers will be given rest time from 8pm to 2am (local time) in the morning. They will be taken to Khunjerab pass, Pakistan-China border crossing, and after about two-and-a-half hours of travelling, the bus will reach Kashgar in China. The bus will make the same stopovers while travelling back from China to Lahore.
He further said the fair of the bus service is very competitive. The price of one-way ticket is Rs13,000 (about $105) and return ticket is Rs23,000 (about $190). People can book the seats from Lahore and Islamabad too. Online booking is also available subject to the availability of seats.
Passengers are allowed 20kg of luggage and will be charged further if carrying additional weight with them. The cost of food and rest area in Gilgit is included in the ticket price so the passengers will not have to pay anything extra. Apart from the bus ticket, the passengers have to carry valid visa and Computerised National Identity Card with them.
The buses are new and the most luxurious ones hardly have around 15 seats, therefore passengers would get ample space. The management of the company claimed that no passenger would be left tired even after two days of travelling and it would be a memorable journey for them.
Pakistan Economic Forum Chairman Humayun Iqbal Shami called it a big day in relations between the two countries.
He said, “The countries which carry better and convenient means of communication between them have more opportunities of strengthening people-to-people contacts.
“One reason for the good relations among European countries is that they have easy access to travel to other countries on a very low price. Air travelling is expensive whereas road travelling is always far cheaper.”
He also suggested that both governments should provide some subsidy to further reduce the ticket price.
“This bus service will bring a flood of tourism between the two countries because the bus will explore many tourist sites for passengers,” he said.
Shami also proposed both countries to start building rail link which would not only be safer but also cost effective, adding that in Europe, the rail links were most popular even in the elite class, then why not in case of China and Pakistan.
He further said that “since a large volume of cargo will also be brought to Gwadar and back to China; therefore, the existing single carriage way on Karakoram mountains will be insufficient for smooth transportation, so, rail link between Kashgar to Islamabad will practically link Kashgar with Gwadar port”.
Board of Investment Pakistan Chairman Haroon Sharif, while hailing the new bus service, told Xinhua that the business community of both countries could benefit from this step.
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He particularly called on Chinese investors to invest in Pakistan where ample opportunities were available.
He was hopeful that this step would open new avenues of economic relationships between the two countries.
Pakistan’s Ministry of Industries and Productions Secretary Azhar Ali Chaudhry considered it as the first step towards a long prosperous journey of development for Pakistan.
“I am hopeful that it will bring more investment and Chinese businessmen will relocate their industries to Pakistan soon,” Chaudhry added.
Update: Launch of bus service was postponed due to prevailing law and order situation in country after decision of Supreme Court in Asia Bibi’s case.
(This news/article originally appeared in The Express Tribune on November 3rd, 2018)