Mumbai: During the peak of this summer’s tourist season, tourists who want a ride on the toy train between Neral and Matheran are likely to be a disappointed lot, since it is uncertain as to when the operation of the service will be resumed. Hence, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) is thinking of reviving its plan to operate a funicular car to ferry people to and fro.
Back in 2009, the MMRDA had planned for a funicular railway through a public-private partnership model between Dudhani village to Matheran’s Maillot Spring Point, but the plan was dropped a year later.
“We are thinking of operating a new transport service to connect Matheran as there are issues with narrow gauge train services,” said a senior MMRDA official.
Seven years ago, the MMRDA had also got a detailed project report prepared through consultants RITES. At that time, the estimated cost was Rs100 crore to cover a route of 1.3km from Dudhani village near Panvel to Maillot Spring Point.
The existing narrow-gauge railway line connecting Neral and Matheran is on the Central Railway’s Mumbai-Pune route. This line is 20km long and takes about two hours to cover.
The other alternative is the roadway, but it doesn’t go all the way, stopping short at Dasturi, from where commuters have to walk or ride a horse for 3km. The funicular railway planned earlier would take only about 15 minutes to cover the same destinations. The earlier plan was to have two cars with a capacity of carrying 60 passengers each, which would be guided by cables along the tracks.
In May, the Central Railway suspended its toy train services to Matheran, severely affected the tourism industry at this popular getaway.
With the plans to revive the funicular railway still in its nascent stages, there is no time line yet set by MMRDA officials to take further steps towards its implementation.