CHENNAI: If everything goes according to plan, Railbus, a retrofitted metre gauge coach, will run through the Nilgiri hills by next summer. To this effect, the zonal railway has written to the Western Railway to hand over about 20 metre gauge coaches that had been pulled out of operations.
“We are awaiting coaches from Gujarat. Once we receive them, they will be retrofitted into a Railbus with 40 to 45 seating capacity, having an in-built loco pilot cabin,” A K Kathpal, Principal Chief Mechanical Engineer, Southern Railway, told. He added that Southern Railway had sent a proposal to railway board for approval.
The move is aimed as part of the efforts to boost heritage tourism of Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR).
The Railbus is proposed to be operated initially between Mettupalayam and Coonoor. “After testing the hauling capacity, the train will be extended till Ooty,” the official added.
The 45.88-km NMR from Mettupalayam to Udagamandalam is one of the steepest metre gauge sections, running through the Nilgiris on the eastern slopes of the Western Ghats. Railways had dismantled metre gauge across the country and converted most of them into broad gauge. The last metre gauge train in Tamil Nadu was operated between Tiruvarur and Karaikudi in March 2012. Excluding hills stations, metre gauge trains are operated in six sections for about 1,000 km, mostly covering Western Railway and North Eastern railway zones.
Metre gauge coaches taken out of operations are old, shabby and dilapidated.
While the coaches which are above 25 years old had already been abandoned, those in operation are sent for overhauling. “The coaches will be given a makeover to enhance passenger comfort, safety and experience,” added Kathpal.
The refurbishing and retrofitting works are likely to be handed over to Perambur carriage works, as the workshop had successfully refurbished UDAY coaches. The 45.8 km NMR section has seven stations between Mettupalayam and Udhagamandalam. They are Kallar (7.46 km), Hillgrove (17.26 km), Coonoor (27.03 km), Wellington (28.54 km), Aravankadu (28.54 km), Ketti (37.19 km)and Lovedale (41.76 km).
12-car EMU to run in Gummidipoondi line
About 3000 passengers can travel additionally in Chennai – Gummidipoondi – Sulurpetta section from Monday, when railways introduces the first 12-car EMU. Eight services of a single rake with 12 cars is expected to ease congestion in the section during peak hours. A press release said the existing nine-car rake of Chennai MMC-Sulurpetta EMU locals that start at Chennai Moore Market Complex (MMC) at 4.20 am, 12.40 pm and 6 pm will be augumented with 12-car rakes.