NEW DELHI: After failing to find a place in the World Heritage Site list in 2009, Railways is making a fresh attempt to ensure that over 100-year old Matheran Light Rail (MLR) gets enlisted by UNESCO this time.
"We are making fresh attempt to make the MLR as a World Heritage Site and accordingly new application is being sent to UNESCO for the purpose," said Subodh Jain, General Manager of Central Railway.
Matheran, located on the Western Ghats range at 2,625 ft above sea level, is connected with Neral station by a unique two-ft narrow gauge rail track and has been operational for over 100 years.
The construction of the Neral-Matheran line in Maharashtra was started in 1904 and the toy train had its first run in 1907.
Railways first submitted the proposal for listing of the Matheran rail in UNESCO heritage list in 2006. It failed to get the nod from UNESCO for various reasons in 2009.
In the meantime, a major chunk of the line got washed away on July 2007 due to the heavy rain and it was restored by railways making it operational in February 2007.
"If it gets the WHS status then the hill station will attract the attention of global tourists and this will transform the economy of the area," Jain said.
The toy train hauled by diesel engine is, however, running on loss as the expenditure is exceeding the earning in the picturesque hilly areas. While the Central Railway earns about Rs 60 crore from the MLR, it spends Rs 6 crore in a year to make the toy train operational.
"Though it is a loss making route we want it to be inscribed in the World Heritage list, said Jain adding we are trying to make it financially viable by introducing a shuttle service during the monsoon."
It does not operate between June and September because of the danger of landslide during the rainy season.
"Recently we have tried to reduce the loss by running shuttle service in the last three km of the line between Aman Lodge and Matheran during the monsoon and the response was tremendous," he said.
The popular toy train with six coaches takes about two and half hours journey to traverse the 20 km route with more than 200 curves and a tunnel popularly known as "One Kiss Tunnel".
Currently, railways have three mountain railways as World Heritage Site. While the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway in the eastern got inscribed in the World Heritage List in 1999, Nilgiri BSE 0.00 % Mountain Railway in south was inscribed in 2005 followed by Kalka-Shimla Railway in the northern region which became World Heritage Site in 2008.
Matheran has been declared an eco-sensitive region by the Union Environment Ministry. No private automobiles are allowed and the transport facilities available are horses and hand-pulled rickshaws in Matheran.
Source - economic times