Shimla (SML): UNESCO World Heritage Kalka-Shimla rail line will have another attraction. Indian Railways is all set to introduce a special “Jharokha” coach open from the front and the rear. The first of a kind in the country, the coach will be attached to the train on demand only. While railway authorities are adding new attractions to the 97-km track, the state government has demanded fresh survey of tunnels and bridges on the track to assess their strength for the safety of passengers.
Sources in the railway department said, “It is fitted with eight luxury seats along with small tables. For a better view, the coach is open from the sides. It is one of its kind coach introduced in the country.”
The popularity of rail journey on the 97-km heritage track, having 917 sharp curves besides 102 tunnels and 988 bridges, could be known from the fact that during holidays, Northern Railways is forced to run special holiday trains on the narrow gauge to cater to the high demand.
Sources said during peak tourist season, rail cars were much in demand as small groups of high-spending tourists, especially foreigners, preferred to have special coaches for their upward journey to Shimla. “New coach has been introduced with the aim to serve the needs of high-end tourists,” they added.
Station superintendent of Kalka Railway Station Vinay Kumar Arora said though the new coach has been built, it has not been put in service. He said its trial run was conducted during the visit of the world heritage team. “Once charges are fixed, the new coach will be made available on demand and attached to the regular trains,” he added.
This is not the first time when railway authorities have planned to add a new attraction to Kalka-Shimla track. Earlier, a proposal was mooted to have a special coach for children with popular cartoon character painted on them, but the idea failed to take off, sources said.
At a time when efforts are on to make journey of tourists enjoyable, safety and security of passengers on this track has become a cause of concern for want of required repair of tunnels and bridges over the years.
Congress MP from Mandi parliamentary seat Pratibha Singh in July this year had met Union railway minister Mallikarjun Kharge in New Delhi, demanding a fresh survey of tunnels and bridges on this track to assess their strength. She had said these were around 100 years old and in bad shape due to their continuous use over the years. She had also sought reconstruction of various bridges on the Shimla-Kalka rail track.
Later in October this year, chief minister Virbhadra Singh had raised the issue with minister of state for railways K Surya Jaya Prakash Reddy during the latter’s visit to Shimla. He had raised the issue of maintaining of Kalka-Shimla rail line, stating that this railway section should be well maintained as it was important from the point of view of tourism and its historical significance.
Reddy then had announced that a team from UNSECO would soon visit for the inspection of Kalka-Shimla railway section. Reddy had said that appropriate steps would be taken for its maintenance on the recommendations of UNESCO team that would conduct the inspection at the earliest.