House panel to inspect DHR

Siliguri, May 31: The parliamentary standing committee on railways would on June 14 inspect the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a Unesco World Heritage network, a part of which is out of service since 2010 after landslides damaged the tracks.

This is the first time after 2010 that a parliamentary team would inspect the hill railway network.

DHR sources said a team of around five members will visit important stations along the 80km DHR tracks from Siliguri to Darjeeling during their two-day visit.

Between Siliguri and Kurseong, no toy trains run because of the damage to the railway tracks following landslips at two points in 2010 and 2011.

“The trip is mainly to assess the present condition of the DHR. They will eventually make recommendations to improve the condition and services of the hill railway to the Union railway ministry,” a DHR official said today.

“The team will visit important sites along the DHR tracks, including the two landslide spots, the workshop, the DHR headquarters at Kurseong and stations along the way. They will evaluate the working conditions of the locos (both steam and diesel) and carriages, take stock of the services and administrative affairs of the hill railway,” he said.

The Indian Railways had taken some steps to improve the DHR after the Unesco, New Delhi office, issued a warning in March expressing concern over the delay in restoring the toy train tracks that were breached at Tindharia and Paglajhora.

In the second week of May, the DHR started building an alternative route to bypass the landslide-hit stretch at Tindharia, 30km from here, on NH55. The Tindharia landslide that washed away a part of NH55 and DHR tracks happened in September 2011. But in 2010, a landslide at Paglajhora, 35km from here, had washed away part of NH55 and tracks running parallel to it.

The slide at Tindharia had also affected a loco workshop perched 200ft above the landslide spot. No restoration work was taken up after the incident and heavy rain further damaged a part of the only DHR workshop in July last year.

Another setback for the hill railway came when a major portion of Sonada station, 52km from here, was gutted in a fire in October last year. No repair has been taken up so far.

“The parliamentary standing committee will make its recommendations to the Union railway ministry about areas that need immediate attention like track restoration, improving performance of rolling stock (locomotives and carriages) and upgrading the infrastructure,” the DHR official said.