The Khandwa – Mhow passenger train set off on its last journey on Sunday amidst emotional farewell by hundreds of residents and passengers who commute between these two stations along with others gathered at station in a chilly winter morning.
Now it will be called Sanawad – Mhow train as from Sunday onwards railways has shut down 142-year-old 54-kilometre meter gauge track between Khandwa and Sanawad for broad gauge conversion and from now only four trains will run between Mhow and Sanawad (64 kilometre).
As the train departed on its scheduled time at 7.30 am from platform No 5 here at Khandwa. Khandwa mayor Subhash Kothari flagged off the train after performing pooja and offering garlands to loco pilot and crew members.
For thousands of people in Nimar region who commute between Khandwa and Mhow, either for daily work or business purposes, this train, which was both cheap and comfortable, had a kind of sentimental bonding with them. Between Khandwa and Mhow, this line also connects Akola and some other villages of Maharashtra.
“Whatever advance technology we may adapt for faster, smoother and better commutation, the nostalgia attached to heritage things and connected memories will not fade away easily,” said Radheshayam Shakkya, a commuter who among many took the last ride on the train on Sunday.
Expressing their happiness and grief together, train crew members including loco pilot NK Lakhani, his assistant Manoj Yadav and guard Amit Sahastrabudhey said they were happy to be part of the historic journey, adding they don’t know what will happen from tomorrow.
“I have been running this train between Khandwa and Mhow (a 118-kilometre stretch) for the last 20 years. Now what will I do from tomorrow? May be I will deliver my services on the Mhow – Sanawad track,” Lakhani said.
“People of this region will get dividends for small sacrifice as after gauge conversion, the railway journey will be comfortable and relatively faster on this route and people may get additional trains in future,” he added.
As the train chugged out of the station, many people standing on both sides of the tracks bade adieu to the train shouting “Alvida metre gauge and welcome broad gauge”. Some people even stopped it at Chidiya Maidan and Lalchowki railway crossings to felicitate crew members.
Currently, this train takes around one-and-a-half hours to cover the 54-kilometre journey but after the gauge conversion its speed on the route will increase and cut short journey time.
The Mhow-Khandwa section is a part of the Ratlam-Akola gauge conversion project. The conversion of Ratlam -Mhow line has already been completed. The 118 km-long stretch between Mhow and Khandwa is one of the most intricate projects because of its spiral-shaped ‘Ghat Section’. The conversion of this route has been delayed due to some environmental and engineering-related issues owing to the Ghat section.
A costly affair for passengers
The gauge conversion work between Khandwa and Sanawad will, however, inconvenience those thousands of odd commuters who travel between Khandwa and Sanawad every day. A monthly railway pass between these two stations costs around Rs 370 whereas bus operators charge Rs 50 to Rs 60 for one side trip. This big rise in travelling cost will definitely hit poor people’s pockets.
More plans on the cards
The elevation work for the Khandwa meter gauge platform is in the pipeline. The Khandwa railway station will have five broad gauge platforms. In the next few months, both Khandwa and Sanawad station will undergo a huge facelift. Apart from that, four stations on the 54-kilometre stretch including Attar, Ajanthi, Kotlakheri and Nimar Kheri will be given a facelift to connect several villages with railways.