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The Samjhauta Express commonly called the Friendship Express, is a twice-weekly train – Tuesdays and Fridays – that runs between Delhi and Attari in India and Lahore in Pakistan. The word samjhauta means “agreement”,”accord” and “compromise” in both Hindi and Urdu.
Until the reopening of the Thar Express, this was the only rail connection between the two countries. The train was started on 22 July 1976 following the Shimla Agreement and ran between Amritsar and Lahore, a distance of about 42 km. Following disturbances in Punjab in the late eighties, due to security reasons Indian Railways decided to terminate the service at Attari, where customs and immigration clearances take place. On 14 April 2000, in an agreement between Indian Railways and Pakistan Railways (PR), the distance was revised to cover just under three km.
It was a daily train when the service started, and changed to a bi-weekly schedule in 1994. Earlier the rakes were returned to the home country the same day but later in 2000 the rake remained overnight at that location.
Its termini are Lahore in Pakistan and Delhi in India. The border crossing takes place between Wagah in Pakistan and Attari in India. Originally, this was a through service with the same rake going all the way between the termini; later the Pakistani rake stopped at Attari at which point passengers had to change trains.
Now there is a train from Delhi to Attari where all passengers alight for customs and immigration. This train does not have any commercial stops between Delhi and Attari. It is incorrectly referred to as the Samjhauta Express and it is officially known as the Delhi-Attari or Attari-Delhi Express. The actual Samjhauta Express runs from Attari to Lahore, although the passengers are checked at Wagah, the first station on the Pakistani side. The train service was set up with an agreement between Indian Railways (IR) and Pakistan Railways (PR) to alternately use an Indian and a Pakistani rake and locomotive for the train, six months at a time.
The train usually has between four and eight coaches. The rake supplied by Pakistan is usually hauled by an Alco DL-543 class ALU20 diesel loco (Lahore shed), with the entire train in the standard dark green livery of PR.
The train’s first break of service was when it was discontinued on 1 January 2002 in the wake of the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament on 13 December 2001. Service resumed on 15 January 2004. Service was also suspended following the 27 December 2007, assassination of Benazir Bhutto as a preventive measure to deny militants a “high-value target” that was of great symbolic importance to both India and Pakistan.