LAHORE:Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad has announced operating 40 trains, out of 142, across country till complete control of coronavirus pandemic. Addressing a press conference at PR headquarters here on Saturday, he said that 15 Up trains and as many Down trains were already running while five UP and five Down trains would more be made operational including Sir Syed Express, Shalimar Express , Bahaudin Zakriya Express, Karachi Express and Railcar from Lahore to Rawalpindi (which runs at 12:30 from both sides). He also disclosed that Bahawalpur Railway station would be inaugurated this month and Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar had been taken into confidence in this regard. He thanked the journalists and administrations of all four provinces for their cooperation in operating the trains with 60 per cent occupancy. He said that Pakistan Railway Advisory & Consultancy Services Limited, (PRACS) had also been given permission to sell tickets besides the online system due to burden on the online system, adding the police had also been directed to ensure social distancing in queues for tickets at booking windows. He assured the nation that the standard operating procedures (SOPs) would be implemented in letter and spirit, adding that the railways was already facing deficit of Rs 30 to 32 billion and decision of restoration of trains had been taken to facilitate citizens. The minister said that only those railway stations had been made operational where COVID-19 test could be conducted. He said that precautionary equipment from China had reached and after installation of these equipment, more railway stations would be made functional. Discussing the Main Line-1 (ML-1) project, he said that Federal Minister for Planning Asad Umar had decided to work on PC-1 of the project. He said that after ML-1 project, the issue of track would also be resolved and track on the branch lines would also be improved. He made it clear that no PR employee would be sacked from the department, adding that one lakh employments would be given in ML-1. He said that the ML-1 was life-line of the railways and it would also provide accident free travelling in future. To a question, he said that Pakistan-China friendship was higher than Himalayas and time tested, adding that both nations would stand side by side in any hard times.