A disagreement on the water rate hike ended in a debacle, as commuters making their way to Matheran were left thirsting for water after alighting at Neral railway station. For the past few days, the station, which is the stopover point for tourists wishing to take the toy train to the tourist town, has not been getting water the reason being Central Railway (CR) authorities refused to accept the water hike imposed by the local gram panchayat.
CR had a three-year water supply contract with the Neral gram panchayat wherein they paid them Rs 1.71 lakh. But after the contract expired recently, the rate was hiked to Rs 3.42 lakh. CR did not approve of the increase and soon after, the gram panchayat stopped supplying water to the station and the CR residential quarters in the vicinity. The water woes were, however, were resolved after CR authorities installed a new pipeline. “We have installed a new pipeline that connects to a well near the southern end of Neral station and is supplying water,” said AK Singh, PRO, CR.
Matheran, declared an eco-sensitive region by the environment and forest ministry, attracts about 20,000 tourists during summer and monsoon months. The CR sells tickets worth over Rs 25,000 daily at Neral station for the toy train service to Matheran, which also increases during holidays. Six toy train services are run from the bottom of the hill station to Aman Lodge station in Matheran. Going by the official CR figures for April to November 2013-14, CR earned Rs 1.56 crore from the Neral-Matheran toy train services, as compared to Rs 53 lakh during the same period in 2012-13.