Darjeeling Himalayan Railway: Plan for Hill Tourist Train by Year-end

DHR also proposes first-class ride between Kurseong and Darjeeling; state to set up centres to help tourists
18nbltoy1_174308Siliguri:  A first-class toy train for tourists that would stop at scenic spots for photo-ops could become a reality in the hills if a Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) proposal sees the light of day.

The DHR has forwarded the proposal to the Northeast Frontier Railway to start such a service between Kurseong and Darjeeling during the Christmas-New Year tourist season.

“We have sent a letter to the Northeast Frontier Railway headquarters seeking permission to start a special service between Kurseong and Darjeeling for tourists. We had planned to start the service during the Durga Puja-Diwali season but could not do so because of the strike in the hills (till September first week),” said Arun Kumar Sharma, the divisional railway manager of Katihar.

The DHR is under the Katihar division of the Northeast Frontier Railway.

“Now, the tourist flow in the hills is less and it is not feasible to start an additional service. We are certain that the Christmas-New Year tourist season would be good and we want to start the service around that time. We are expecting a reply (from the Northeast Frontier Railway) soon,” he added.

Two toy trains run on the Kurseong-Darjeeling route everyday and each train has one first-class coach and two second-class coaches.

“These coaches are often crowded with local passengers. We want the new service to have only first-class coaches so that tourists can enjoy the ride,” Sharma said.

The train for tourists would stop at points between two stations so that visitors can click pictures.

Sources in the hill railway said the plan to start the additional service was propelled by the fact that the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has no immediate plans to call general strike in the hills.

“The situation is peaceful in the hills and the major political parties in the region are stressing on dialogue, not strikes and blockades. The situation is likely to remain peaceful. Under such circumstances, the tourist inflow would increase in the Christmas-New Year season,” a DHR official said.

Apart from the two trains on the Kurseong-Darjeeling route, one train runs daily between Siliguri and Rongtong and four trains ply between Ghoom and Darjeeling everyday.

If tourists want to travel in first-class coaches, stop at a particular place along the route to spend some time and take pictures, they have to book chartered trips.

The regular trains only halt at the DHR stations.

“First class coaches have around 10 comfortable chairs each along with huge glass windows. Some such coaches even have overhead windows and they ply on the Darjeeling-Ghoom route. We are planning to use such coaches for the tourist special service,” a DHR official said.