CROSS-BORDER services between Khokhropar in Pakistan and Munabao in India were revived following the departure of the first Thar Express from Karachi at 11.00 on February 17.

Railways Minister Shamim Haider and the Governor of Sindh Dr Ishratul Ibad Khan were among official guests who attended a ceremony to mark the departure of the specially-decorated seven-coach train, which Pakistan's Ministry of Railways said carried more than 320 passengers.

The train called at Hyderabad, Mirpur Khas and 'Zero Point', arriving in Munabao at 12.30 the following day. Munabao station has been rebuilt at a cost of Rs120m, and at Zero Point a border post has been specially built 100m inside the Indian frontier to minimise the distance passengers will travel either side of the border fences without passing through security checks. Zero Point station is only accessible to Thar Express passengers.

The Thar Express will run weekly, operated by Pakistan Railways for the first six months and then by India's North Western Railway for the next six months. It is the second rail service between the two countries to be reinstated, and is expected to attract 70% of the passengers who currently use the Lahore - Atari - Amritsar route.

The 7·5 km from Khokhropar to the border and the 2·5 km on to Munabao had been abandoned after the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965, and had to be rebuilt over eight months to allow services to resume. The railways took the opportunity to convert the line from metre to broad gauge, in tandem with PR's regauging of the 118 km Khokhropar to Mipur Khas.