Udagamandalam (UAM): With the onset of the summer, many tourists are seeking to flock to the Nilgiris to beat the heat. Lovers of the Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR) are seeking for special summer train services to cater to the large number of tourists. Earlier, till 2012, the southern railway operated special trains between Mettupalayam and Ooty on the NMR during summer months.
However, subsequently, the railways withdrew the services from 2013. With three coaches, the mountain train can carry at least 300 passengers in a single trip.
According to K Natarajan, managing trustee, Heritage Steam Chariot Trust (HSCT), the southern railway operated summer special trains on the NMR track till 2012. “The special services were withdrawn by the railways since 2013 for unknown reasons”, he said, adding, “Earlier, a decade ago, besides summer special services, night train services were also provided for short distances on the mountain track as part of summer festival in the hills. Despite, the NMR being one of the main attractions for tourists visiting the hills, the railways doesn’t seem to take any initiative to develop on tourism”.
On an average, around 7,000 tourists visit the hills daily, but only less than 900 tourists get a chance to experience the chug on the scenic railway line. Normally, apart from services between Mettupalayam and Ooty daily, two services between Ooty and Coonoor are also provided by the railways.
“The NMR has enough engines, especially with the new addition of indigenous oil-fired engines. The railways can easily provide special summer services in the interest of tourism,” said Natarajan.
However, Shubhran Shu, divisional railway manager (Salem division) said, “The NMR section witnessed several landslips and boulder-falls over the past few years. Considering the risk factor involved in the ghat section of NMR, we don’t intend to provide extra services on the track”.
In the meantime, HSCT has given a representation to the Salem division of the southern railways seeking re-introduction of special service in the NMR section for the summer. However, HSCT is yet to get a reply from the railways.