The suspension of the famous Neral- Matheran toy train has posed not only financial problem for the Central Railway, but raised concern of passenger safety as it is a challenge for the Railways to put in place advanced services on the 21-km long hilly stretch.
Services of the 109-year-old toy train, synonymous to the tourist spot located in the Western Ghats range of Raigad district, was suspended early this week after two incidents derailment on May 2 and May 7.
Following which, CR constituted a committee to probe the incidents.
"Our main concern is not just the restoration of services temporarily, but safety of the entire stretch on a permanent basis. And it does not seem to be taking place, because there are remote chances of installing technological advancements into operation on this hilly route," a senior CR officer said requesting anonymity. "There is ample fund but investing on that particular route is not economically viable for the railways because the spot has limited tourist footfall," the officer said.
Operation of the 610 MN narrow gauge heritage train has been economically inviable as CR spends about Rs 13 crore annually, while the profit stands only at Rs 3 crore. CR has deployed 222 railway officers and staffers, including 67 break porters, to operate the 26 services in a single day for carrying not more than 1,500 passengers a day.
Recently, the Railway minister had stated that senior most zonal officer and the Divisional Railway Manager would be held responsible if any mishap occur under their jurisdiction. In wake of the minister's remarks, another senior CR official said it has sent them in a tizzy when it comes to Matheran toy train service.
The Neral-Matheran Light Railway was built between 1901 and 1907 by Adamji Peerbhoy (1846¿1913), an Indian business and philanthropist by investing Rs 16 lakh.