Another tragedy awaits Kalka-Shimla rail track?

December 22nd, 2008 - 10:39 am ICT by IANS  

Shimla, Dec 22 (IANS) The railways seems to be paying little heed to the safety of passengers travelling on the century-old Kalka-Shimla rail line - a world heritage site in Himachal Pradesh - despite frequent landslides due to construction along the track.One person was killed and three people were injured Sunday when a train from Kalka to Shimla derailed near Dharampur in Solan district.

The Delhi-based NGO Indian Steam Railway Society (ISRS) has expressed concern over the excavation work in progress at different sites along the track, posing a threat to the rail line that was opened by Lord Curzon, the then Viceroy of India, in 1903.

“The movement of trucks has weakened the embankments along the track at various places,” ISRS executive member P.J. Singh told IANS.

“Every day a convoy of trucks moves up and down in various areas, especially Kumarhatti and Barog towns in Solan district. A massive digging exercise being carried out by excavators and JCBs (machines) has been going on for the past many months.”

ISRS is at the forefront in trying to preserve the steam heritage of the railways.

Singh said the ISRS had asked the railways a number of times to stop construction activities.

“Even pictures of the construction activity have been provided to the railways so that the Himachal Pradesh government could be convinced to check the unscientific excavation. Due to dumping of debris at various places, a landslide could block tracks,” he asserted.

“A structure has come right on the top of tunnel number 10 at the Kumarhatti railway station. Similarly, massive digging is going on near the Barog railway station,” Singh said.

Traffic on this rail line remained disrupted for six days from Sep 19 this year due to massive landslides between the Shimla and Koti railway stations. The worst hit was the Kainthlighat area where a 25-metre stretch of track was damaged.

Unesco had included the 30-inch gauge Kalka-Shimla rail line in the list of world heritage sites July 7 this year.

This rail route also features in the Guinness Book of World Records for offering the steepest rise in altitude in the space of 96 km. More than two-thirds of the track is curved, sometimes at angles as sharp as 48 degrees.

The glorious journey along the rail line from 640 metres above sea level at Kalka to the lofty heights of Shimla at 2,060 metres takes your breath away, as the train meanders through deep ravines, a verdant forest of pine, deodar, oak and maple, and the magnificent scenery of the Shivaliks.

Five trains run between Kalka and Shimla every day. Each ‘toy train’ - the popular name for it - has about seven coaches and can accommodate nearly 200 passengers.

To cater to the Christmas and New Year rush, the railways started two holiday special trains on this rail track Dec 20.

There are 102 tunnels on the rail line. Initially, there were 103 tunnels, but tunnel number 46 does not exist any more.

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