Funicular railway for Matheran receives mixed reactions

Updated: 23 July, 2020 07:30 IST | Rajendra B Aklekar | Mumbai

Locals ecstatic about the project, but expert warns against building the rail line through forest area and an ecologically fragile zone

A funicular railway at Saptashrungi hilltop in Nashik
A funicular railway at Saptashrungi hilltop in Nashik

The MMRDA recently approved the building of a funicular railway in Matheran, thereby presenting a challenger to the 113-year-old Matheran narrow gauge railway. While locals are happy with the decision, experts are wary about MMRDA’s new plan.

Expressing happiness, Manoj Khedkar, former president of Matheran Municipal Council said, “The funicular railway will solve the connectivity issues to the hill station once and for all. It was during my tenure as the president of Matheran Municipal Council that we floated the idea and a feasibility report of the entire project had been commissioned. We are very happy to see the plan come to life finally.”

However, Germany-based international railway expert Frank Wingler who recently visited Matheran has expressed doubts about the project. “How can an 800 m climbing rail/rope funicular on a trajectory/guideway be erected through the forest and an ecologically fragile zone? It will also require a smooth road further to Matheran as a connecting transport route,” he told mid-day in an email from Germany. “My transport solution for Matheran is a proper stable road from Neral to Dasturi and from Dasturi to Matheran Market a stable, monsoon proof, well-drained and easy to climb cart road,” he added.

Project details
The project was approved at the MMRDA’s 149th meeting held by video conference on July 7. It was around 2010 that a plan had been drawn up. As per the older plan made by Rail India Technical and Economic Service (RITES), it involved running a funicular rail service between Dudhani village and Maillot Spring Point with two cars with each passenger coach carrying 60 commuters.

‘We welcome the plan’
The Matheran narrow gauge railway line which has been listed in the UNESCO tentative list of Mountain Railways in India originally came up as a private venture of the Peerbhoy family between 1901 and 1907. “We welcome the new mode of transport. The only concern and regret that we have is that the authorities need to complete the historic transactions with the Peerbhoy family about the railway line and offer adequate compensation. Our claim in the Bombay High Court is still pending,” said Hussain Peerbhoy, the great-great-grandson of Sir Adamjee Peerbhoy, who built the line as a family enterprise more than a century ago.

Prominent funicular rails in India

. Palani – Tamil Nadu since 1966
. At Bhira and Bhivpuri Road
. At Joginder Nagar, Himachal Pradesh
. Saptashrungi temple, Nashik

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First Published: 23 July, 2020 07:03 IST

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