India and Pakistan on Friday agreed to resume the Samjhauta Express from January 15, 2004. The train will run between Attari in India and Lahore in Pakistan twice a week. The fare structure will be announced later.
The two countries also agreed to resume freight services. The existing rail link agreement, signed in January 2001 and valid till January 20, 2004, has been extended for a further period of three years till January 20, 2007.
Freight and passenger trains between the two countries started in 1976 by a three-year agreement. This was periodically renewed and is currently valid up to January 20, 2004. But the trains were stopped mid-way after the December 13, 2001 attack.
A four-member Pakistani delegation led by Muhammad Iqbal Khatri, Additional General Manager of Pakistan Railways, started discussions on Monday with the Indian team headed by S B Ghoshastidar, Additional Member, Traffic, of Indian Railways.
Khatri said, "We are happy to announce that the two sides have agreed to restore the service on as is where is basis."
An Indian official team will be visiting Pakistan soon to finalise modalities relating to the fare structure, number and type of coaches as also whether the service could be extended to Delhi.
Both Dastidar and Khatri said that the fares that existed before the service was snapped would be applicable till the new fare structure was worked out.
Dastidar said the decision would help in enhancing people-to-people contacts between the two countries as also go a long way in meeting the demands of increasing bilateral trade and commerce.
He said the talks were held in a 'very cordial and fruitful' atmosphere.
"For improving the quality of the service, both railways agreed to meet regularly in future," the statement said.
"I am happy to be here. The talks were constructive and cooperative. We were looked after well here. I hope that the Indian delegation will visit Pakistan for further discussions. They await a warm welcome in Pakistan," Khatri said.
Asked if any change in the operational schedule was discussed, he said the two sides can always meet if such a need arises.
On the significance of choosing January 15 for restarting the rail service, Dastidar said, "When we have to restart such a service, we have to tie up all the details of the operations... full preparations have to be made for it."