Special Correspondent

The train is between Munabao, Khokhrapar

It will be a weekly service but the matter will be reviewed depending on the trafficThe train will be operated alternately on a six-month basis

NEW DELHI: The second rail link between India and Pakistan will become operational on February 1. The Thar Express, connecting Munabao in Rajasthan and Khokhrapar in Sindh province, will run once a week.

The announcement came on Friday at the end of official-level talks between the two countries. A joint statement was signed by leader of the Pakistani delegation Saleem-Ur-Rahaman Akhioond, General Manager, Pakistan Railways, and Ashok Gupta, Adviser Traffic, Ministry of Railways.

Briefing presspersons, Mr. Gupta and Mr. Akhoond said the two sides discussed the modalities of operating the service. A formal agreement would be signed when an Indian delegation visited Pakistan before the month-end. It would be valid for three years with a provision for revision in the interregnum.

The fare will be finalised at the meeting and will be in line with that of the train service between Amritsar and Lahore. The officials did not rule out the introduction of freight services in the future though the issue did not figure in the discussions.

The passenger train will be operated alternately on a six-month basis. The country operating it at the given time will provide the rake for the service.

Pakistan will have the first take. For the first six months, the train will enter India at Munabao. It will then be the turn of India to operate the service, with its train crossing into Pakistan at Zero Point Railway Station near Khokrapar in Sindh in Pakistan.

The rail service on the 2.5 km stretch between Munabao and Zero Point on the Pakistan border is seen as a significant step forward in bridging the four-decade-old divide between the peoples.

On increasing the frequency of the train, Mr. Gupta said: "Initially, it will be a weekly service but the matter will be reviewed depending on the traffic."

Railway officials said the passengers would not have to take another train at Zero Point.