Transport in Pakistan

Transport in Pakistan

Transportation in Pakistan is extensive and varied but still in its developing stages and serving a population of over 160 million people. Construction of new airports, roads, and railway are providing a massive employment boost in Pakistan


Much of Pakistan's road network (National Highways) and railway network were built before 1947, during the British Raj. In recent years, new national highways have been built, with the addition of motorways. Airports and seaports have been built recently within the last 30 years.


Rail services in Pakistan are provided by the state-run Pakistan Railways, under the supervision of the Ministry of Railways. Pakistan Railways provides an important mode of transportation to the farthest corners of the country, catering to the large-scale movement of people and freight. The railway network comprises 8,163 kmcite web| url=| title=World Factbook - Pakistan| author=The Central Intelligence Agency| accessdate=2007-06-28] of which broad gauge (1.676-m) forms 7,718 km including 293 km of electrified track. Narrow gauge (1-metre) tracks form the remaining 445 km. Passenger earnings comprise 50% of the Railways total revenue. During 1999-2000 this amounted to Rs. 4.8 billion.Fact|date=June 2007 Pakistan Railways carry 65 million passengers annually and daily operates 228 mail, express and passenger trains.Fact|date=June 2007 Pakistan Railways also operate special trains for various occasions. The Freight Business Unit with 12000 personnel operates over 200 freight stations on the railway network. The Unit serves the two major ports of Karachi and Qasim as well as the four provinces of the country and generates revenue from the movement of agricultural, industrial and imported products such as wheat, coal, fertilizer, cement, and sugar. About 39% of the revenue is generated from the transportation of petroleum oil (lubricated) (POL) products, 19% from imported wheat, fertilizer and rock phosphate. The remaining 42% is earned from domestic traffic.Fact|date=June 2007 The freight rates structure is based on market trends in road transport which is the main competitor to rail transport.


Pakistan has active rail links only with the Indian railway network which operate the same gauges as Pakistan. The rail link with Iran has been suspended since March 2006 because of a missing link between Bam and Zahedan.

There is no railway link to Afghanistan because that country has no railway network, but a link is proposed. An initial 10.5 km stretch of track will be laid from the Pakistan border town of Chaman to Spin Boldak in Afghanistan at cost of USD 11.5m. A second phase envisages extending line to Kandahar for eventual connection via the western city of Herat to Khushka in Turkmenistan. The final phase would link 1676mm gauge with Central Asian 1524mm gauge. It is not clear where the break of gauge station(s) will be. [cite web|url=|title=Govt considers railway links with central Asia] The proposed line may link Gwadar with Dalbadin, Taftan and the Central Asian statesFact|date=June 2007.

There is no link with China, but on February 28, 2007 contracts were awarded for feasibility studies on a proposed line from Havelian via the Khunjerab pass at 4730m above sea level, to the Chinese railhead at Kashgar, a distance of about 750 km.cite web| url=| author=Associated Press of Pakistan| title=PR signs deal with foreign firm for pre-feasibility study of Pakistan-China rail link| accessdate=2007-06-28]


The Karachi Circular Railway, which opened in the early 1940s, is the only functioning metro in Pakistan as of date. In 1976, Karachi was slated to begin work on an underground metro system, but plans have been put on hold. The Lahore Metro is another proposal still in planning and is scheduled to be opened in 2020.


National Highways

During the 1990s, Pakistan began an ongoing project to rebuild all national highways throughout the country specifically to important financial, cargo and textile centres. The National Highway Authority or NHA is responsible for the maintenance of all national highways in Pakistan.

Markan Coastal Highway

The Coastal Highway or N75 follows the coast of the Sindh and Balochistan provinces, linking Karachi and Gwadar. It was constructed to replace a muddy coastal track, which had forced most travellers to undertake an inland journey of several days, as the safest route was by way of Quetta in the far north of Balochistan. The journey time has now been reduced to six hours. The highway was built as part of an overall plan to improve transport facilities in southern Balochistan; other parts of the plan include the new seaport and international airport at Gwadar and the construction of a road linking Gwadar to Khuzdar.


The construction of motorways began in the early 1990s with the idea building a world class road network and to reduce the load off the heavily used national highways throughout the country. The M2 was the first motorway completed in 1998, linking the cities of Islamabad and Lahore. In the past 5 years, many new motorways have opened up including the M1, M3 and others.

Local transport

In urban areas there are several means of transport available, catering to a wide range of budgets, including motorbikes, rickshaws, and buses. Motorbikes and scooters are popular vehicles used by many people to move around cities. They are easy to travel on and less stressful compared to cars and buses. The law requires motorbike or scooter riders to wear a helmet. Over the last few years, the number of brands and varieties of motorbikes and scooters has substantially increased to suit all budgets and sizes.

Auto Rickshaws

Auto rickshaws are very similar to ones used in India, however the Pakistan version come in many different colours instead of the black/yellow versions India uses. The fare is usually negotiable before commencing a journey. Due to the level of pollution contributed by the auto-rickshaws, the government has planned with a Chicago based company and developed a CNG auto-rickshaw to lower the levels of pollution in the city. The government decided in 2005 to replace two-stroke three-wheelers with CNG-fitted four-stroke rickshaws in Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi and Gujranwala by the end of 2007. Three manufacturers were ordered to produce 60,000 four-stroke vehicles, but they reportedly supplied 2,000 to the government which were now plying on city roads.Many cities in Pakistan have placed restrictions on auto-rickshaws, preventing them from travelling on certain roads in the city to cut levels of pollution.

There are many different types of auto-rickshaws in Pakistan ranging from two passengers to six-seaters. There are also cargo versions that are purely used to transport cargo and parcels around the city for businesses. A new form of transport in Pakistan is the Qing-Qi (pronounced "ching-chee"), which is a cross between a motorcycle and auto-rickshaw. It runs just like a motorcycle but comes with three wheels instead of two and carries a much heavier load on its back. It is an urban transport vehicle and is used mostly for short distances, because of safety problems.

Taxi cabs

Another very common sight seen at hotels and airports in Pakistan are yellow taxi cabs, which are like the black cabs of London. The drivers charge according to a meter located on the dashboard of the car, but fares can be negotiated if there is no meter. The cab drivers are reliable and will take passengers to any destination required. There are also numerous privately run services that use cars and minibuses of various types throughout Pakistan, providing a reliable and quick means of transport.

The government had also allowed a consortium of three domestic investors and one Arab investor, to introduce the Black Cab, that is commonly seen on the streets of London. However the decision soon became embroiled in controversy when the awarding of the license was challenged in the Supreme Court on grounds of corruption.


This is a relatively cheap and easy method of transport, with services run by both public and private companies. The Daewoo Bus Company runs many of the inner city buses with very modern air-conditioned buses, which ease travel during the high summer temperatures, and which operate constantly throughout the day. From 2000, the government has banned old, excessively polluting, poorly run buses from cities, to deal with the pollution levels that have become a problem in many Pakistani cities. The buses are given numbers according to which routes they are travelling or if in doubt there is usually a conductor who can be consulted for directions and fares. Bus times are affected during the chaotic early morning and early evening rush hours, when commuters try to get to or from work.

Inter city buses

For long distance journeys from city to city (e.g. Lahore to Islamabad), the Sammi Daewoo Express coachescite web| url=| title=Sammi Daewoo website| accessdate=2007-06-28| author=Sammi Daewoo| format=HTML] have proven to be a great success in intercity travel as well as in the cities. The Sammi Daewoo express bus service provides services on more than 18 routes and operates more than 325 departures per day in Pakistan. The service is available in most cities including Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Multan, Faisalabad, Peshawar, Abbottabad, Sialkot, Murree and many others destinations. However, for the local or more low classes there is a range of other private companies that operate between cites including Ravi Express,

On 7 April 2005, bus services started across the Line of Control in Kashmir, from the Indian city of Srinagar to the Pakistani city of Muzaffarabad with buses running every two weeks.


In the cities many people prefer compact cars such as the Suzuki Mehran, Daihatsu Coure and Toyota Vitz. Moreover, the most popular vehicle in Pakistan is Toyota Corolla, which has been dominating the Pakistan Market for over 8 years. Due to an increase in demand, the Adam Motor Company developed Pakistan's first indigenous car called the Revo, of which production has stopped.

In late 2005, Suzuki introduced the APV (All-Purpose Vehicle) the first luxury family van in Pakistan. Manufactured in Indonesia, the 1.5 litre petrol manual-transmission became an instant hit. It was large, affordable (at one million PK Rupees) and above all 'luxurious'. By the middle of 2006, Suzuki had announced an automatic-transmission version.

Utility vehicles (SUVs or 4x4s) are also a familiar sight in Pakistan. This type of car is very multi functional as it allows long distance and off road travel, within cities as well as city to city travel. The most popular models are the Toyota Land Cruiser, Toyota Prado, Mitsubishi Pajero, Kia Sportage can also be sighted.


Waterways network in Pakistan is in its infancy with Karachi being the only major city situated next to the Arabian Sea.Still plans are being proposed for the development of the waterways in the country as it would also boost up the employment opportunities other than the economic and social development of Pakistan.


* Natural gas - 10,257 km
* Petroleum products - 2,001 km

Ports and harbours

There are currently three main ports of Pakistan (including two located in Karachi), and one minor port.

* Gwadar
* Port of Karachi (western Karachi)
* Port Qasim (eastern Karachi)
* Pasni mini-port

The Pakistani merchant fleet comprises sixteen vessels (GRT|1000|metric|first=yes or over) totalling GRT|397,740|metric/(GRT|657,656|metric|first=yes. The fleet includes one bulk carrier, ten cargo vessels, one container ship, and four petroleum tankers. There are also eleven other Pakistani ships registered in other countries.

Air transport

In the 1980s Jinnah International Airport (Quaid-e-Azam International Airport), in Karachi was one of the busiest airports in the world. The airport was served by nearly every major airline in the world. The airport was also used as a stop-over for passengers travelling to the Far East. There were also several domestic airlines to meet increasing passenger demands. However due to the political instability in the country during the 1990s, many airlines stopped serving Pakistan. Slowly even the airlines in Pakistan started to become bankrupt as passenger numbers dropped and the air travel industry reached a situation where even the national airline, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) was on the verge of bankruptcy.

Recently however, there has been a rise in passenger traffic after the Civil Aviation Authority introduced new policies to increase the demand for air travel, leading to more investment in the industry. The investment saw the construction of the Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore that now has become the second most busiest airport in Pakistan today with many flights every hour. The continued high demand has brought new airlines into the industry with more airlines on the way including Safe Air and Pearl Air, bringing technological changes in travel including e-tickets and chauffeuring services to the airport. Today, there are five airlines in Pakistan in heavy competition amid high fuel prices. Also, as the demands of passengers increases, PIA, the national flag carrier, has begun to order brand new aircraft from Boeing and ATR to introduce more specialised services and provide a more efficient and comfortable service to its passengers. Airblue, the latest airline to enter the industry, is now one year old and has made a $1 billion order with Airbus to supply the airline with ten brand new aircraft including Airbus A330 and A320 so it can provide services to the United Kingdom and USA. The Civil Aviation Authority also introduced an "open sky policy" allowing Pakistani airlines access to the lucrative UK and USA markets, whilst allowing foreign airlines to increase their use of Pakistani airspace. This has allowed the return of many airlines to Pakistan including British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and many gulf airlines, with many more indicating plans to return.

Pakistan has 139 airports including Jinnah International Airport (Karachi), Allama Iqbal International Airport (Lahore), Islamabad International Airport (Islamabad-Rawalpindi), Peshawar International Airport, Quetta International Airport and Sialkot International Airport. There are also several smaller airports which have flights to and from the Gulf because of the large Pakistani diaspora working in the region. There are 91 airports with paved runways of which 14 have runways longer than 3,047 metres. The remaining 48 airports have unpaved runways including one airport with a runway longer than 3,047 metres. Pakistan also has eighteen heliports.

ee also

* Airlines of Pakistan
* Auto rickshaw
* Customised buses and trucks in Pakistan
* Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority
* Karakoram Highway
* Khyber Pass
* Lahore Railway Station
* Makran Coastal Highway
* Mobile World Magazine
* Motorways of Pakistan
* National Highways of Pakistan
* Port of Karachi
* Pakistan International Airlines


External links

* [ Pakistan Railways official website]
* [ Karachi Port Trust website]
* [ Daewoo Bus Service]
* [ Pakistan International Airlines website]
* [ Pakistan National Highway Authority website]
* [ Decorated Vehicles at]
* [ Pakistani railways map at the United Nations]
* [$File/cia_pak040303.jpg?OpenElement Transport map of Pakistan at Relief Web]

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