Transport in Pakistan

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Pakistan transport network

Transport in Pakistan (Urdu: پاکِستان نقل و حمل‎) is extensive and varied and serving a population of over 191 million people. In recent years, new national highways have been built, with the addition of motorways which have accelerated trade and logistics within the country. Much of Pakistan's rail network railway was built before 1947, mainly during the British Raj. Airports and seaports have been built in the last 30 years with the addition of foreign and domestic funding.

Road transport[edit]

National Highways, Motorways & Strategic Roads of Pakistan.

National highways[edit]

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

  • The Makran Coastal Highway follows the coast of Sindh and Balochistan provinces, linking Karachi and Gwadar. Journey time has been reduced to six or seven hours with the construction of the new Coastal Highway. The highway was built as part of an overall plan to improve transport facilities in southern Balochistan.
  • The Karakoram Highway is the highest paved international road in the world. It connects China and Pakistan across the Karakoram mountain range, through the Khunjerab Pass.
Jingle trucks on Karakoram Highway
  • The Grand Trunk Road (commonly abbreviated to GT Road) is one of South Asia's oldest and longest major roads. For several centuries, it has linked the eastern and western regions of the South Asia, running from Bengal, across north India, into Peshawar in Pakistan.
  • The Silk Road is an extensive interconnected network of trade routes across the Asian continent connecting East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean world, including North Africa and Europe. It passes through the midsection of Pakistan through cities: Peshawar, Taxila and Multan.


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 and M3. The M4 is nearing completion, and connects the cities of Faislabad and Multan via Gojra, Toba Tek Singh, Jhang, Shorkot, Pir Mahal and Khanewal.

  • Total: 257,683 km
    • Paved: 152,033 km (including 339 km of expressways)
    • Unpaved: 105,650 km (2001)
    • Vehicles on road: 4.2 million vehicles 250,000 commercial vehicles (2004 estimate)

Provincial Highways[edit]


  • Inter city

Bus service in urban areas and between cities is well established with services run by both public and private sectors. Bus services like Raja Bus Service (Azeem Bhatty), AL-SYED Transport, Waraich Buses, Daewoo Express, Rehber Travel, Bilal Deawoo, Faisal Movers, Kohistan, Khan Brothers, Skyways and Niazi Express have set up a modern intercity service which connects to most cities in Pakistan and runs 24 hours a day. Intercity buses tend to be more modern and well kept.

  • International

International bus services are also well established in Pakistan and connect to various countries:

Rail transport[edit]

Pakistan Railways Network
Karakoram Express departing to Lahore from Karachi Cantt. Station


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 in Pakistan, catering to the large-scale movement of people and freight. The railway network comprises 8,163 km[1] all of which are in 5 ft 6 in (1,676 mm) including 293 km of electrified track. Passenger earnings comprise 50% of the total revenue. During 1999–2000 this amounted to Rs. 4.8 billion.[citation needed] Pakistan Railways carry 65 million passengers annually and daily operate 228 mail, express and passenger trains.[citation needed] 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 FBU serves the Port of Karachi and Port Qasim as well as in various other stations along the network and generates revenue from the movement of agricultural, industrial and imported products such as wheat, coal, fertiliser, cement and sugar. About 39% of the revenue is generated from the transportation of petroleum, 19% from imported wheat, fertiliser and rock phosphate. The remaining 42% is earned from domestic traffic. The freight rates structure is based on market trends in road transport which is the main competitor to rail transport.

High speed rail[edit]

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that a high-speed rail network will be built which will connect Peshawar to Karachi via all major cities of Pakistan during his visit to China in June 2016. The Government is making plans for this project.

Mass transit and Urban Railway[edit]

The Karachi Circular Railway, which opened in the early 1940s, is the only functioning Mass Transit System in Pakistan today[when?]. In 1976, Karachi was slated to begin work on an underground metro system, but plans have been put on hold since. The Lahore Metro Bus System is another rapid mass transit system which was tested by the Chief Minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif on December 25, 2012. It began operation on February 11, 2013. Lahore Metro would be the first mass transit system of it type in Pakistan. Peshawar Metro is also planned. On 22 May 2014,[2] Pakistan and China signed a $1.6 billion agreement for a metro train project in Lahore.[3] The Government decided to build the Orange Line of Lahore Metro. Work on the project will start in 2014 and will be completed within 27 months.The total length of the project will be 27.1 km, of which 25.4 km will be elevated and 1.7 km underground.

In Lahore, Lahore Central Railway Station is the main railway station. Shahdara Bagh, Badami Bagh, Mughalpura, Shahdara Town, Lahore Cantonment, Wagah, Walton Cantonment, Kot Lakhpat, Kahna Nau, Jia Bagga and Raiwind are other busy railway stations located in Lahore. These urban railway stations of the city are served by commuter trains of Lahore. A large number of commuters use these station to get access to the city of Lahore.

International routes[edit]

India India - Thar Express to Karachi and the more famous Samjhauta Express international train from Lahore, Pakistan to Amritsar (Attari) and Delhi, India. The weekly Thar Express also runs between Karachi and Bhagat Ki Kothi (near Jodhpur, Rajasthan).

Iran Iran - A 5 ft 6 in (1,676 mm) railway line runs from Zahedan to Quetta, and a 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge line is finished from Zahedan to Kerman in central Iran, linking with the rest of the Iranian rail network. On May 18, 2007, a MOU for rail cooperation was signed by Pakistan and Iran under which the line will be completed by December 2008. Now that the rail systems are linked up at Zahedan, there is a break-of-gauge between the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge tracks and Pakistan Railway's Indian gauge tracks.[4]

Afghanistan Afghanistan - Currently there is no rail link to Afghanistan since no railway network is present in that country, however Pakistan Rail has proposed to help build an Afghan Rail Network in three phases. The first phase will stretch from the Chaman to Spin Boldak in Afghanistan. The second phase will extend line to Kandahar and the third phase will eventually connect to Herat. From there, the line will be extended to Khushka, Turkmenistan. The final phase would link 5 ft 6 in (1,676 mm) with Central Asian 1,520 mm (4 ft 11 2732 in) Russian gauge. It is not clear where the break-of-gauge station will be.[5] The proposed line will also be connected the port town of Gwadar via Dalbadin and Taftan, thus connecting the port town to Central Asia.

China China - There is no link with China however, on 28 February 2007 contracts were awarded for feasibility studies on a proposed line from Havelian via the Khunjerab Pass at 4730 m above sea level, to the Chinese railhead at Kashgar, a distance of about 750 km.[6]

Turkmenistan Turkmenistan - Via Afghanistan (proposed) – avoiding 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge intervening.[7]

Turkey Turkey - An Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad passenger rail service was proposed recently.[8] Meanwhile, a container train service was launched by the former Prime Minister of Pakistan Yousuf Raza Gilani between Islamabad and Istanbul on 14 August 2009. The first train carried 20 containers with a capacity of around 750 t (738 long tons; 827 short tons) [9] and will travel 6,500 km (4,000 mi) from Islamabad, through Tehran, Iran and on to Istanbul in two weeks' time.[10] According to the Minister for Railways Ghulam Ahmad Bilour, after the trial of the container train service, a passenger train will be launched.[11] There are also hopes the route will eventually provide a link to Europe and Central Asia, and carry passengers.[12]


In Ghangha Pur, a historic, 2 ft (610 mm) narrow gauge[13] horse-drawn tramway exists. It first opened in 1898, closed in 1998, and re-opened in 2010.[14]

Urban transport[edit]

In urban areas there are several means of transport available, catering to a wide range of budgets.

Rapid Transit[edit]

The Karachi Circular Railway, which opened in the early 1940s, is the earliest functioning Mass Transit System in Pakistan. In 1976, Karachi was slated to begin work on an underground metro system, but plans have been put on hold since. In Lahore, Lahore Central Railway Station is the main railway station. Shahdara Bagh, Badami Bagh, Mughalpura, Shahdara Town, Lahore Cantonment, Wagah, Walton Cantonment, Kot Lakhpat, Kahna Nau, Jia Bagga and Raiwind are other busy railway stations located in Lahore. These urban railway stations of the city are served by commuter trains of Lahore. A large number of commuters use these stations to get access to the city of Lahore.

The government of Pakistan has planned to build a monorail system in its federal capital, Islamabad. A monorail is also planned for New Avenue in Gulberg, Lahore

  • Metro rail

The Lahore Metro or Lahore Rapid Mass Transit System (LRMTS) (Urdu: لاہور میٹرو‎) is a rapid transit metro system under construction in Lahore, the second largest city of Pakistan. First proposed in 1991, funding was not secured, and in 2012 it was abandoned by the Punjab government in favour of the more cost–effective Lahore Metro Bus System which opened in February 2013. However, the Punjab Government decided to restart development on the Lahore Metro as a $1.6 billion project with Chinese assistance. The Orange Line, which will be 27.1-kilometre (16.8 mi) long, (25.4 kilometres (15.8 mi) of which will be elevated),[15] will be the first line of the project and is under construction.[16]

Without segregated lanes
  • The TransLahore is a bus rapid transit (BRT) system in Lahore. The Lahore Transport Company was established in 1984 to ease the traffic conditions of Lahore and improve bus services. The Company was assigned responsibility for transport in Lahore in December 2001. A BRT fleet of 650 buses was introduced. It was named TransLahore. However, the bus rapid transit system (BRTS) did not have dedicated lanes and had to share roads with regular traffic with no right of way. This resulted in a system that was a BRTS only in name.
With segregated lanes
  • Multan Metrobus is an operational bus rapid transit in the city of Multan. The 18.2 kilometres (11.3 mi) long BRT system connects the main commercial areas of the city.
  • Karachi Metrobus is planned for city of Karachi. It will consist of 5 corridors and will have total length of about 109 kilometres (68 mi), of which the Green and Red Linea are about to go into a construction phase.

The corridors include:

  • Surjani Town to Jama Cloth Market (21.1 km)
  • Model Colony to Regal Chowk (24.4 km)
  • Landhi to Luck Star Hotel (20.4 km)
  • Baldia to Shershah via Hub River Road (9.7 km)
  • Hwaksbay to Gulbai via Mauripur (11.8 km)
  • Orangi to Board Office (3.9 km).
  • TransPeshawar is a bus rapid transit system for the city of Peshawar. The project is under the consideration of PTI led Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. PMTS will be a bus rapid transit system.Which will be initially constructed on one red line having length of 18.4 kilometer from Chamkani to Hayatabad area of Peshawar.
List of Bus systems (BRT) in the Pakistan
City System Began oper. Status Number
of stations
[Note 1]
Lahore TransLahore 1980 Complete 112 160
Lahore Lahore Metrobus 2013 Complete 27 27
Islamabad Rawalpindi-Islamabad Metrobus 2015 Complete 24 22.5
Rawalpindi Rawalpindi-Islamabad Metrobus 2015 Complete 24 22.5
Multan Multan Metrobus 2017 Complete 18 18.2
Karachi Karachi Metrobus 2018 Under construction 90 109
Faisalabad Faisalabad Metrobus 2018 Planned 28 30
Peshawar Peshawar Metrobus 2019 Planned 18 26


Within cities, buses provide a significant role in commuting a large number of travellers from one city to another. Recently, large CNG buses have been put onto the streets of various cities, primarily Karachi and Lahore, and recently Islamabad, as the minivans which were originally used were beginning to cause large traffic problems. Private yellow and white minivans have services throughout cities in Pakistan and get commuters from one point of the city to the other at a low cost. Since 2000, however, the government has taken a comprehensive initiative to modernize the existing bus fleets and minimally impact the environment. This public-private enterprise would gradually introduce 8,000 CNG buses throughout the country and 800 buses in Karachi. This venture will ensure high standards of efficiency and cleanliness.[19]

Auto rickshaws[edit]

Due to increasing environmental no issues with older rickshaws, the government has heavily invested in greener, more fuel-efficient rickshaws
Cars and auto-rickshaws are some of the most common means to travel within a city

Auto rickshaws are a popular method of travelling in cities and are found in almost every city and town in Pakistan. The fare is usually negotiable before commencing a journey; however, due to the level of pollution contributed by auto-rickshaws, the government has recently begun banning older ones and replacing them with CNG auto rickshaws, which tend to be less noisy, form less pollutants and are much bigger and more comfortable. The Punjab government decided in 2005 to replace two-stroke three-wheelers with CNG-fitted four-stroke rickshaws in Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi and Gujranwala. Three manufacturers were ordered to produce 60,000 four-stroke vehicles, but they reportedly supplied 2,000 to the government which are now plying on city roads. Similar ordinances are now being considered in other provinces of Pakistan.

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 has three wheels instead of two and can carry a much heavier load. It is an urban transport vehicle and is used mostly for short distances.


Another very common sight seen mainly at hotels and airports are yellow taxis. 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. Recently, the Radio Cab was introduced in Pakistan, which allows riders to call a toll-free number to get in touch with the closest taxi stand. This service is currently offered in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Karachi, Peshawar and Lahore. Services for Hyderabad and Faisalabad are now being made.


Over the years, the number of cars on Pakistani roads has tripled. Traffic jams are a common scene in major cities across Pakistan. The most popular cars on Pakistani roads are Suzuki Mehran, Suzuki Cultus, Suzuki Alto, Suzuki Bolan, Daihatsu Coure, Hyundai Santro, Honda Civic, Honda City, Honda Accord, Toyota Corolla and Toyota Vitz.

Luxury SUVs and cars are owned by the elite in urban cities and by many large landowners in the villages and rural areas, thus making them a fairly common sight in Pakistan. The most popular models are the Toyota Land Cruiser, Toyota Prado, Land Rover Range Rover, along with serval Mercedes-Benzes, BMWs and Audis.

Future cars[edit]

To meet future needs, students and teachers from National University of Science and Technology developed Pakistan's first ever hybrid gasoline car Devrim II, an inspiration from Turkish model Devrim.[20] Before that, students from Naval College Karachi and Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute also made a successful hybrid car, but Devrim II is the most effective one. The current team leader of the Pak-Wheelers said,[21]

"Initial design was giving a mileage of around 450 kilometres to a litre but we are trying to improve that number to more than 700 km/litre after switching to a hybrid model."

— Faizan Zafar, Tribune interview


In the small towns and farms, many people decide to walk great distances to either get to work or to walk to their nearest grocery store to get their daily shopping. The donkey cart, locally known as the Rehrri, is still visible every where in Pakistan, as poor people use this form of transport to shift cargo from one part of the city to the next. Their cargo ranges from fruits and vegetables, to textiles or machinery that factories require in industrial cities. The horse and carriage, locally known as Taanga, is mainly used for casual travelling around the city. There is one driver, with either one or two horses at the front. This method is now usually used by tourists in the spring and summer that love to see the cities in an open environment.

Camel carts are also seen from time to time, mostly in the hotter parts of Pakistan including Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan where farmers transport larger cargo that donkey carts cannot handle.

Bicycles are used by either the poorer segment of the society or for leisure. This method is still very widely used as its very economical and simple.

Air transport[edit]

Airports and Seaports of Pakistan

Pakistan has 148 airports.[1] The major airports are:

Gandhara International Airport is also under construction in Rawalpindi District and Attock District South-West of Islamabad.

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 meters. The remaining 48 airports have unpaved runways including one airport with a runway longer than 3,047 meters. Pakistan also has eighteen heliports.[1]


The waterway 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 along the Indus River and through the Punjab as it would boost employment opportunities and the economic and social development of Pakistan. See a list of dry ports and sea ports in Pakistan.


  • Ferry services run between Kimari and Minora Island in Karachi.
  • Karachi used to have ferry connection with City of Mumbai in India until 1960s but it was later discontinued when both the countries went into war.
  • A cruise service began between Karachi and Dubai in 2006 called Gulf Dream Cruise but wasn't able to go beyond its first sail due to visa issues by the UAE authorities.


  • Length of pipelines for crude oil is 2,011 km (1,250 mi).
  • Length of Petroleum products pipeline is 787 km (489 mi).
  • Length of Natural gas pipelines is 10,402 km (6,464 mi).

The above information was calculated in 2009.[1]

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor[edit]

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is an under-construction development program to connect Gwadar Port in southern Pakistan to China's northwestern autonomous region of Xinjiang via highways, railway's[22] and pipelines to transport oil and gas. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang was among the first advocates of the project, since then Chinese President Xi Jinping, formar Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif have become strong supporters of the project.[23] When the corridor is constructed it will serve as a primary gateway for trade between China and Middle East and Africa, in particular oil from the Middle East could be offloaded at Gwadar, which is located just outside the mouth of the Persian Gulf, and transported to China through the Baluchistan province in Pakistan. Such a link would vastly cut the 12,000-kilometre route that Mideast oil supplies must now take to reach Chinese ports.[24]

The project received a major boost when control of Gwadar was transferred to China's state-owned China Overseas Ports Holding in February 2013. Built by Chinese workers and opened in 2007, Gwadar is undergoing a major expansion to turn it into a full-fledged, deep-water commercial port. On 19 February 2014, South China Morning Post reported that Pakistan and China have signed agreements for constructing an international airport at Gwadar, for upgrading a section of the 1,300-kilometre Karakorum Highway connecting to Islamabad and of a fibre-optic cable to be laid from the Chinese border to the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi.[25] [26] According to the The Diplomat with the development of the corridor, Central Asia, traditionally an economically closed region owing to its geography and lack of infrastructure, will have greater access to the sea and to the global trade network.[27] Pak-China Economic Corridor Secretariat was inaugurated in Islamabad on August 27, 2013.[28]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Stations connected by transfers are counted as one station, unless otherwise noted.
  1. ^ a b c d The Central Intelligence Agency. "World Factbook – Pakistan". Retrieved 2007-06-28. 
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Railway Gazette International
  5. ^ "Govt considers railway links with central Asia". 
  6. ^ Associated Press of Pakistan. "PR signs deal with foreign firm for pre-feasibility study of Pakistan-China rail link". Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-06-28. 
  7. ^ Dr John Stubbs (2007-01-01). "Closing the gap from Bam to Zahedan". Railway Gazette International. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "First container train service from Islamabad to Turkey begins Today". Pakistan Times. 2009-08-15. Retrieved 2009-08-15. 
  10. ^ "Leading News Resource of Pakistan". Daily Times. Retrieved 2009-08-15. 
  11. ^ "Pakistan | PM launches trial phase of Pak-Turkey train service". Dawn.Com. Retrieved 2009-08-15. 
  12. ^ "Pakistan–Turkey rail trial starts". BBC News. 2009-08-14. Retrieved 2009-08-16. 
  13. ^ "Trams of the World 2017" (PDF). Blickpunkt Straßenbahn. January 24, 2017. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 16, 2017. Retrieved February 16, 2017. 
  14. ^ All Things Pakistan – Ghora Tram: Historic Horse Tram Returns to Gangapur, 9 March 2010
  15. ^ "City to lose 620 trees for Orange Line train". 
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Lahore Metro Bus service inaugurated". The News International. 10 February 2013. Retrieved 24 May 2014. 
  18. ^ "Shahbaz to inaugurate work on Metro Bus Service on Feb 28". Dawn. 28 February 2014. Retrieved 24 May 2014. 
  19. ^ [1]
  20. ^ National University of Sciences and Technology, Pakistan Students Design Pakistan's First-ever Hybrid Car
  21. ^ Objectives of Pak-Wheelers
  22. ^ Pak-China Economic Corridor to get high-speed railway track
  23. ^ China, Pakistan Flesh Out New ‘Economic Corridor’
  24. ^ Pak-China ties: Gawadar port one part of a larger plan
  25. ^ China and Pakistan pave way for ‘economic corridor’
  26. ^ China Pakistan
  27. ^ The Pakistan-China Corridor: A new project will give Pakistan the tools of globalization. Will it use them?
  28. ^ Pak-China Economic Corridor Secretariat inaugurated in Islamabad

External links[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from the CIA World Factbook website