The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) resumed its toy train services in West Bengal on Wednesday after a gap of around one and a half years. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the heritage toy train services have now been resumed between New Jalpaiguri station and Darjeeling after a gap of 17 months.
According to the Northeast Frontier Railway, the train will be running with 17 seats in the first class and 29 seats in general class for the passengers. The NFR also added that resumption of hill station railway services is likely to benefit the tourism and hospitality industry.
The Darjeeling toy train was built in the British era, between the years 1879 and 1881. In 1999, the train was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The toy train ascends from 100 metres above the sea level at New Jalpaiguri to about 2200 metres in Darjeeling. As per the reports, it is believed that currently, one train will run daily from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling, 88 km apart.
On 22 March last year, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways was closed down due to the spread of virus. However, after around one and a half years, the trains are preparing to get back on track again. Meanwhile, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway or the toy train are most likely to be privatised by the government under National Monetisation Policy; which was announced by the Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on August 23.
A total of 90 passenger trains, 400 stations, railway stadiums and the famous Konkan and hill railways are among the holdings identified by the government under monetisation.
Both, modern diesel engines and heritage steam locos built between 1889 and 1927 are used to pull the widely popular toy trains. Presently, it runs 11 round trips between Darjeeling and Ghum using first class coaches as well as Vista dome.
In fact, the joy rides between Darjeeling and nearby Ghum resumed from Christmas but were debarred again due to the second wave of covid.
During this week, FM Sitharaman, launched the National Monetisation pipeline (NMP), wherein she mentioned the government’s infrastructure assets that would be sold in the next four years. The government considers asset monetisation as not just a funding mechanism, but as a strategy to maintain and enhance the infrastructure.
Therefore, amid all the concerns of the Centre’s plans to monetise the World Heritage Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, the much awaited toy train services have been resumed between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling after more than a year.