The scenic toy train route was suspended last year. File pic
The authorities are no longer toying around with Matheran’s toy train. For the first time in years, the railways will spend crores of rupees to ensure the safety of passengers on this scenic route. Thanks to this, the toy train service, which was suspended in May 2016, will get back on track again.
The Central Railway will spend Rs 3 crore to replace the tracks this financial year. Another Rs 1.5 crore has been set aside to build protective walls and crash barriers along the 21-km rail route to prevent the train from skidding and falling into the ghats. This is only a portion of the total provision of Rs 12.87 crore for replacement of tracks and Rs 6.75 crore for protective barriers for the entire Neral-Matheran route.
Matheran is the closest hill station to Mumbai that is connected by a toy train, along with a kachha road meant for trekkers and horse riders. However, over the years, the iconic narrow gauge route had become dangerous. After two back-to-back derailments in May last year, the train route was suspended. Before it was suspended, the toy train was available from Neral and the trip to Matheran would take roughly two hours. Now, tourists and locals are forced to either pay hefty amount to porters and horse owners or trek 4 km up to Dasturi Naka.
“We will soon call tenders for the same. This is much required funding that the government has provided, as the century-old toy train route needs to be overhauled,” said a CR official on condition of anonymity.
Today, officials from CR and the Research Design Standard Organisation (RDSO) are scheduled to inspect certain sections on this route to gauge what repairs are required. Sources said the officials will inspect the stretch between Neral to Waterpipe station, where the ballasts (stones between the sleepers) haven’t undergone deep screening required to remove dust particles that weaken the rail line.
The authorities need to install 650 metres of crash barriers, and officials added that the barriers are mainly needed on the section between Aman Lodge and Matheran, which is along a steep hill. Apart from that, the train coaches will also be upgraded and fitted with more reliable brakes.