by Raheela Nazir
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 Nov. 3 under the flagship CPEC 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, It will be in operation four days a week, that is Monday, Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday from Pakistani eastern city of Lahore to Chinese border city Kashgar, and same manner from Kashgar to Lahore on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
The bus will set off at 12 p.m. (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 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. (local time) in the morning. They will be taken to Khunjerab pass, Pakistan-China border crossing, and after about two and 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.
The fair of the bus service is very competitive. The price of one-way ticket is 13,000 rupees (about 105 U.S. dollars) and return ticket is 23,000 rupees (about 190 U.S. dollars). People can book the seats from Lahore and Islamabad too. Online booking is also available subject to the availability of seats, Anwar said.
Passengers are allowed 20 kg 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 Computerized National Identity Card with them.
The buses are new and the most luxurious ones with hardly around 15 seats, therefore passengers would get ample space. The management of the company claimed that no passenger will be left tired even after two days of traveling and it will be a memorable journey for them.
While taking to Xinhua, Chairman of Pakistan Economic Forum Humayun Iqbal Shami called it a big day in relations between the two countries. He said that 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," said Shami, adding that 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 tourists' sites for passengers," he said.
Shami also proposed both countries start building rail link which will not only be safer but also cost effective.
"In Europe, the rail links are 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."
Chairman of the Board of Investment Pakistan Haroon Sharif, while hailing the new bus service, told Xinhua that the business community of both countries can get benefits from this step. He particularly called on Chinese investors to invest in Pakistan where ample opportunities are available. He was hopeful that this step will open new avenues of economic relationships between the two countries.
Azhar Ali Chaudhry, the secretary at Pakistan's Ministry of Industries and Productions, is not only happy over this development but also considering it as the first step toward a long prosper 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.