The Darjeeling Rangeet Valley Passenger Ropeway in Darjeeling was reopened for the public today after more than 8 year freeze.
The Ropeway is a joint venture by the West Bengal Forest Development Corporation and Conveyor and Ropeway Services (CRS).
"Chief minister Mamata Banerjee was supposed to inaugurate the revamped services. However owing to her present busy schedule she could not make it. She will be here in March to do the honours. Today's opening is a mere formality. We hope that the services will definitely boost tourism of Darjeeling. It is also provides direct and indirect livelihood to many," NC Dutta, chief executive officer of the CRS, said.
However forest department officials remained inconspicuous during the reopening run.
A major tourist attraction, the services had been closed down following a fatal accident on October 19, 2003 which had resulted in the death of 4 passengers and had critically injured 11.
With demands of the reopening of the Ropeway from different quarters, the chief minister had assured that it would be functional from October 2011 (Durga Pujas). However owing to technical hitches the deadline could not be met.
Following a thorough survey by the Metallurgical and Engineering Consultants (India) Limited (Mecon), this central government undertaking had furnished a list of technical recommendations including modern safety features.
Last month, the State Public Works Department had issued a no objection certificate for the Ropeway to resume services following a survey.
"We have carried out all the recommendations prescribed by Mecon Ltd. The ropeway services have been overhauled, upgraded and modernised. It is safe," claimed Dutta.
10 gondolas will undertake the 2km run between Singamari, adjacent to the St Joseph's School, North Point, on the outskirts of the Darjeeling town at 6,500ft to Vah Tukvar tea garden at 6,000ft.
"I am very lucky to be the first to undertake this journey. The view of the Mount Kanchenjunga and the tea garden from the ropeway is truly breathtaking," Antara Datta, a tourist from Kolkata, said.
It was a day of rejoicing for the 26 odd staff of the ropeway and the small businesses (mainly eateries) around the ropeway.
"We are really happy that the services have resumed. Till now we were looking after technical aspects preparing for this day," Amit Karki, an employee, said.
The ropeway was started in 1968 by the forest development department and comprised only a single car which ran one way. Later, it was upgraded to 16 cars and went to and fro from North Point to Singla Bazar, 8 km away.
The Ropeway had been revamped in 1988.