Services of the iconic Matheran toy train, a major tourist attraction, have been suspended after two recent derailments and the Central Railway has constituted a committee to probe the incidents.
The derailed coach of the toy train
This narrow gauge train service is popular among children as well as elderly, so much so that Matheran hill station has become synonymous with the toy train. However, the two recent incidents of derailments since the beginning of this month, have sent the tourists and the railway authorities into a tizzy.
The first incident took place on May 1, when 30 passengers onboard the Neral-Matheran toy train reportedly malfunctioned sending one of its bogies off the track and causing minor injuries to a few passengers. The second derailment took place on May 7, when the Neral-Matheran toy train carrying more than 100 passengers derailed at 7.40 AM near Aman Lodge station.
"The Central Railway has suspended the Neral-Matheran toy train service till further notice following two cases of derailments in as many weeks," CR chief spokesperson Narendra Patil said.
"A committee has been appointed to probe both the derailments. The Railway wants to restore the services as soon as possible, however, decision to this effect would be taken based on the committee report," he said.
The train sets off from Neral station located on the foothills of Matheran. Everyday, several services are run on the Neral-Matheran section as well as the Aman Lodge-Matheran segment-- carrying average 1,500 passengers daily. Apart from passengers, the toy train is also used for carrying essential commodities.
Requesting anonymity, a senior railway officer told PTI, "The decision to suspend the toy train services has been taken following Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu's directive that if any such incident takes place, then three senior most officers of the concerned zone and division, would be held responsible."
"Apart from the committee, top CR officers, including the General Manager and several Principal Head of Departments of the CR are trying to ascertain the cause of the derailments," the officer added.
Motor transport on Matheran hill station is completely banned and the decision to suspend the train service has led the traditional transporters, such as horse owners and hand-rickshaws to use the situation to their benefit, sources said.