On 15[SUP]th[/SUP] May 2015, Pakistan Railways, started a new train service between Islamabad and Karachi and named it Greenline Train (5 UP and 6 DN). Before starting this service, Pakistan Railways did extensive marketing campaign in print and electronic media. The services offered looked really lucrative on paper so I decided to give it a go and booked tickets from Islamabad to Karachi on 16[SUP]th[/SUP] May 2015, the very next day since it?s launching. I was traveling with my 2 friends and we were coming back from our trip to Neelum Valley, Azad Kashmir.
The total run for Greeline train is 23 hours and 15 minutes from Islamabad to Karachi Cantt and vice versa.
From Islamabad it starts at 3:15 PM and reach Karachi Cantt at 2:30 PM next day.
From Karachi it starts at 9:30 PM and reach Islamabad at 8:45 PM next day.
The fare for Greeline train is 5500 from Islamabad to Karachi vice versa, while 5000 from Lahore to Karachi & vice versa. People boarding from Hyderabad, Rohri, Khanewal or Bahawalpur will also have to pay the same fares without any discount.
Here are some of the services that are being offered by Pakistan Railways in Greenline train:
- Evening Tea with a snack
- LCD TV
- WiFi Facility
- Bedding (Pillow & Blanket)
- Mineral Water
- Morning Kit
- On board Janitorial Staff
- An Attendant with every coach
- Liquid Hand wash soap in Washrooms
The time of train is 3:15 PM from Margalla Station (Now renamed to Islamabad), so we reached half hour before time. There is a waiting room at the station for people travelling in AC Class. It was open but its AC was not working. Luckily train was already on platform so we didn?t have to wait in scorching heat.
The surprising thing about Islamabad station is that there are no porters (coolie). So people who are paying 5500 for business class have to carry their heavy luggage on their own.
After boarding, we found that coaches are exactly the same ones used in Tezgam or Karakoram Express. Each compartment consisted of 6 berths and can be locked by a door when needed. The newspaper, pillows & blankets were already there. WiFi service was working nicely. However, there was no feed in LCD TV. Initially the fan was not working but it was rectified soon after we told the attendant of our coach. The train left Islamabad station at exact time of 3:15 PM.
In 15 minutes, the train reached Rawalpindi where many people boarded the train and railway staff refilled the water tanks of all coaches. The train again moved at exact time of 4 PM. In few minutes it reached Chaklala where it made a stop of 2 minutes. I think it?s a good move to pick passengers from different stations within same city.
Soon after leaving Rawalpindi, WiFi service turned off. It was connecting but showing router login page without any internet access.
Now the train was moving steadily, so I took time to check out the surroundings. Firstly checked the washrooms and they were clean but there was no liquid hand soap in the dispenser, neither there was any tissue roll. Upon asking the staff, we were told that it will be filled from Lahore. So it means for the next 5 hours, we can?t clean our hands until we have our own soap. Furthermore, there was no LCD TV feed yet, so we asked attendant and we were told that a person is working to rectify this issue.
A little bit later, I got a bit thirsty so went to water dispenser but there was no bottle on it. Upon inquiring, we were again told that water will be available from Lahore. After few passengers made scene about water issue, we were served by small 500ml water bottle per passenger.
We were expecting to be served by Lunch because train started at 3:15 PM but we were served by Tea only along with half sandwich. The sandwich was neatly wrapper but it was almost dry and there was probably only a half spoon chicken spread inside it. Not sure why there was too much rationing by catering contractor. Upon a little investigation, we found that catering contract was awarded to ?Nabeel Mehmood? by Pakistan Railways who is Lahore based. That?s why all the services were expected to be available from Lahore station.
When ticket checker came, we complained him about pathetic services and he tried to brief us about services. He told us that we will be given options to select meals (either rice or curry). He also told us that it will take about 15-20 days since this service will be in normal state because staff is not trained. It was surprising remark because Railways had too much time to train their staff; after all they are providing business class services to their guests.
The train made an operational stop at Deona Juliani (a small station) for crossing purpose and that was when catering staff rushed to local shop outside station to buy sugar which was probably finished while serving tea. How surprising?
By 7 PM, we were already feeling very hungry because no lunch was served, so asked the staff to bring dinner for us. We were told that there is no dining car in this train and precooked dinner will be loaded on train from Lahore which will then be served after 9 PM. Luckily we had some snacks otherwise which we munched to kill the hunger.
Lahore arrived at 8:15 PM (15 minutes before time). Several more coaches were attached at Lahore and during the process; electricity went off for about 5 minutes. The train left Lahore station at 9 PM. At Lahore station WiFi started working again but as soon as we left Lahore city, it went back to router login state and remained like this till Karachi, which means no WiFi afterwards.
After about half hour, we were suddenly served by dinner. We were not given any choices so we had to eat whatever was available. The menu was chicken qorma, a little potato curry, and one naan. A little salad, a banana and a nestle raita. The immediate problem was how to keep 6 dinner trays in compartment because the table could only accommodate two. Remaining 4 people had to keep the tray in their laps.
The dinner was tasty but in my opinion not worth the price difference we were paying. I was expecting a few more options. Another problem was naan serving. Only one naan was served per person and both curries were in more quantity. Also in dinner usually a normal person eats 2 naans. Upon inquiring, we were told that only one naan is approved by catering contractor and additional naan will cost money. This made few passengers furious so they almost had fight with staff and then they served us more naans without any cost.
After dinner, went to washroom but surprised to see that liquid soap was not yet there. Upon asking the janitorial staff, they told that liquid soap was not boarded from Lahore. This made me really mad and I demanded the coach attendant to take me to Train Manager. He was reluctant at first and tried to console me with different excuses but I didn?t listen so he had to take me 4 coaches ahead where train manager was present. After meeting train manager, I told him about many complaints passengers were facing. He was courteous and came with me to solve the complaints. He kept assuring me that all problems will be solved in few days.. but what about us who are among the first customers of this service.
He found the head of janitorial staff, made them fill the liquid soap. He told that it would most probably end up in staff?s home if he didn?t intervened. He also made them install the tissue roll in toilets. After this, he made the staff to distribute complimentary morning kits to all passengers which was done in next few minutes. The morning kit included a comb, a small soap, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a small handkerchief.
After this, we had a little chit chat with our coach?s catering waiter. He was a nice person and told us all about problems faced by their staff. The higher authorities didn?t provide them dining car which made too much problems for them. Also they were not allocated any place to keep their personal belongings and to sleep. These poor chaps were sleeping in passage ways and empty place near toilets. It was really heart breaking to see all this.
After that, I went to sleep but my friends told me that in night electricity went off again for few minutes. I woke up at 6:30 AM after hearing the knock on our compartment door. It was catering staff inquiring about number of guests in our compartment for breakfast. I told him that we are 6 but bring breakfast a little late as everyone is sleeping now.
By 7:30 AM, all were awake so I asked him to bring breakfast. Breakfast included 2 slices of bread, a tiny pack of strawberry jam, a tiny pack of nurpur butter, 2 egg omelet and tea. Some of the people wanted to eat half fried egg but we were not given any option. The breakfast was fresh and tasty. We were served with extra bread slices without any cost.
The LCD Tv was not provided with feed yet so we friends used our own USB to watch a movie. At least we made use of the resources available. The train reached Rohri on time where station staff once again refilled the water in tanks. The toilets were clean and janitorial staff also came in our compartment to clean the dustbin.
Rest of the journey was ok. There was no stuff offered after breakfast. Although Karachi reaching time is 2:30 PM so they should also offer lunch or at least snacks but nothing was served after breakfast.
The train reached Drigh Road railway station at 2 : 05 PM which was exactly on time. We landed at Drigh Road and hence our journey finished in Greenline.
My final review about Greenline train would be the same words I used in post title ?i.e. Mismanaged Luxury?. If Pakistan Railways had done proper homework before launching this service.. it would have been excellent addition to Pakistan Railways. Being a Pakistan Railway lover myself, I do hope they will overcome their shortcomings in next few days otherwise, it would sooner or later collapse which I really don?t want.
I will InshaALLAH post another review after travelling again in next few weeks and I do hope that time, my review would be totally changed.