In the wake of shutting down of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA)’s flight operations, the owners of the hotels situated outside Karachi Cantonment Station have increased the rents of their rooms as a huge number of passengers are left with no option but to pay exorbitant sums as they make alternative travel arrangements, Pakistan Today has learnt.
Many domestic passengers of the national flag carrier have gone to the railway station in order to get tickets to their reach their destinations.
After the PIA flights were grounded, the private airlines also raised their fares which forced many passengers to opt for the land route. Railways’ retiring rooms are also not available to the passengers at the Karachi Cantt Station.
At the railway station, many passengers can be seen waiting for their scheduled trains under the shades. Some of the passengers have been waiting for two days to get on a train. Many passengers said that they could not afford expensive hotels.
There are over two dozen hotels situated outside the Karachi Cantt Station. The rooms at the lower end can be rented at Rs 500 a day, while on the higher end it can cost as much as Rs 2,500. Lower end hotels have particularly been swarmed by passengers despite the overcharging.
A survey of the hotels in the area showed that the lower end hotels had doubled their rents to Rs 1,000 while the higher end hotels are now charging Rs 3,500 per room. Talking to Pakistan Today, one hotel owner said that the suspension of PIA’s flight operations had provided him an opportunity to earn more during this season.
“The demand for rooms usually increases during summer and winter vacations when people visit their in-laws to enjoy the vacation, but we have very few customers in January and February because people avoid travelling during annual exams of their children,” the hotel owner said.
He said that he and the other hotel owners had increased the rents keeping in view the huge influx of passengers.
While the Karachi Cantt Station has retiring rooms for passengers, the facility has not been operational in years. The retiring rooms have reportedly not been in use for the last 12 years. The facility was closed due to security reasons and handed over to Pakistan Army troops deployed there for keeping an eye on suspicious elements.
After the withdrawal of the Army’s troops, the retiring rooms were rented to Pak-Business Express. Last year, the Railways took back control of the rooms, but they have not been converted into retiring rooms.
The government has established retiring rooms at every major railway station of the country to allow passengers who hail from other stations to stay there. The government charges Rs 150 per day from passengers for stay in these retiring rooms. However, the management of PR Karachi has rented the retiring rooms to a public-private train service on rent.
“The administration has set up 10 rooms for passengers who miss their trains and have to stay overnight waiting for next day’s trains,” Railway Mazdoor Union Regional Divisional President Muqadar Zaman said.
Karachi Railway DCO Nasir Naseer, when approached for comments, said that the retiring rooms had recently been taken back from Pak-Business Express and were, therefore, closed these days. “The retiring rooms need renovation and we are going to renovate them,” Naseer said. “We will complete the refurbishment shortly and open the facility for passengers,” he added.