This festive season, Khajuraho will get an alternate rail route that will drastically reduce travel time to the world-famous tourist hotspot from western and southern India.
According to railway sources, the first train is expected to chug on the 165-km-long new route, built at a cost of Rs 793 crore, between Lalitpur in Uttar Pradesh and Khajuraho by the end of this month.
Temples in Khajuraho are world heritage sites renowned for their artistic sculptures and erotic figures.
Currently, tourists from Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Bengaluru and other parts of western and southern India first travel to Indore or Bhopal, from where they take a bus or hire a cab to reach Khajuraho, undertaking 8-12 hours of strenuous journey. By train, it will take five hours to reach Khajuraho from Bhopal.
Even tourists from eastern and northern India are expected to be benefitted by the new route. At present travellers from these regions can reach Khajuraho by train only via Mahoba in central UP.
Hazrat Nizamuddin-Khajuraho Express (via Jhansi and Mahoba) runs daily connecting the temple town with Agra, Jaipur and Udaipur. There is also a tri-weekly train that connects Khajuraho with Varanasi and Kanpur.
The commissioner railway safety (CRS) has already given the go ahead to run the train on the new route. The distance between Lalitpur and Khajuraho via Udaipura, Tikamgarh, Mawai Halt, Khargapur, Teela Halt, Rampur Halt, Isha Nagar, Chhatarpur and Basari Halt will be covered in five and half hours.
Union minister and Jhansi MP Uma Bharti is likely to inaugurate the first Jhansi-Khajuraho passenger train service on the route at Lalitpur while Railway minister Suresh Prabhu and MP chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan are expected to flag off the return journey of the same train at Khajuraho by the end of this month.
The inauguration of the route had been deferred at least two times.
According to sources in the North Central Railway (Jhansi) and West Central Railway (Jabalpur) this line is part of a Rs 5,100 crore larger project that proposes to connect Lalitpur-Satna-Rewa-Singrauli (via Mahoba and Khajuraho). The project was sanctioned way back in 1997-98.
Local tour and travel operators in Khajuraho said, once operationalized, the new rail link will increase tourist inflow to the town by 30 to 40%.
LINKING TWO STATES
165 km: Distance between Lalitpur-Khajuraho
Rs 793 cr: Project cost
Stations: Lalitpur, Pirari, Udaipura, Tikamgarh, Mawai Halt, Sarkanpur, Khargapur, Teela Halt, Rampur Halt, Isha Nagar, Dharadi, Chhatarpur, Basari Halt, Duriaganj, Khajuraho
Divisions: North Central Railway (Jhansi), and West Central Railway (Jabalpur)