If you’ve taken even a few weekend trips away from the city, chances are you’ve been on the Neral-Aman Lodge-Matheran toy train. Now, the 105-year-old train chugs along over 21 kilometres of ghats will get a makeover.
The Central Railway (CR) is taking different measures to sustain the service that has been running into losses. These include strengthening the tracks, extending services to later in the evening and renovating the railway station.
Currently, the railways incur an annual expense of Rs. 16 crore in maintaining and operating the diesel locomotives. The fare box collection is only Rs. 30-40lakh.
“It is impossible to operate the services with such a high investment and such low returns. Therefore, we will try different ways to increase the revenue. We are also working on reducing the cost of operations by making technical improvements,” said Subodh Jain, general manager, CR.
The railways are trying to increase the speed and capacity of service by adding more coaches and a rear engine to the existing train. Currently, a five-coach train runs along the Neral-Matheran stretch. The administration is planning to extend this to eight coaches.
In addition, the plans of starting services at night are also at an inception stage. “Currently, the last train from Matheran leaves at 6.30pm, but there is a huge demand for night trains from tourists and locals. Therefore, we will request the commissioner of railway safety to add two more services after sunset that will allow these trains to operate till 9pm and allow luggage to be transported after that,” added Jain.
The administration has also added 5-seater luxury family coach to the toy train. The coach has a sofa couch and a camera fitted outside it, which will enable the commuters seated inside to enjoy the view without opening the windows.