Misty hills, forest terrain, glorious view and numerous twists and turns on tracks. No, not the heritage Kalka-Shimla toy train, but an equally picturesque ride on the Barkakana (Ramgarh)-Ranchi route.
In Jharkhand, nature delivers and human nature delays. So, while the proposed 67.3km stretch between Barkakana (Ramgarh) and Ranchi is full of natural delights, the narrow gauge train project, part of the 200km Ranchi-Hazaribagh-Koderma rail line, has not finished even in 14 years.
Starting in 1999, it missed its 2005 and 2007 deadlines. Now, it is slated to cost Rs 3,000 crore.
Amidst pressure from the likes of BJP veteran and Hazaribagh MP Yashwant Sinha, who has thrown his weight behind the project, the Hazaribagh-Koderma line will now, hopefully, be ready by end of August, a two month setback from the earlier deadline of June.
The scenic stretch between Hazaribagh and Ranchi via Barkakana, however, is likely to be completed by 2014-end.
East Central Railway officials admitted work had slowed down between Barkakana and Ranchi due to the “difficult topography” and delay in getting environment and forest clearances to lay tracks on forested hills. “Three tunnels are under construction at present, including the 600m long ones in Masmohana and Khapia, and the third in Durgi village that is 300m long,” said a source.
Railway engineer R.N. Singh sounded optimistic. “We are back on track and will complete the work between Barkakana and Ranchi soon although the train will pass through three tunnels and travel on several bridges to reach its destination,” he said.
Railway sources stressed on the positives. One, the most scenic stretch of this 200km journey will be between Barkakana and Ranchi, with the train running on an altitude of 200-400ft above sea level, crossing three tunnels and a dozen big and 113 small bridges and 28 road overbridges.
Two, it will be an affordable visual treat. Passengers will pay Rs 10 per ticket for passenger, Rs 24 for mail and Rs 33 for express trains.
Three, the Barkakana-Ranchi link will boost the local economy by widening access for vegetable farmers.
“Barkakana is the vegetable basket of the district. If the rail link starts from 2014, farmers of villages such as Pali, Sanki, Jamra, Khapia, Baridih, Daridag, Kodi, Kadru and Armadag will gain the most,” said farmer Mohan Kushwaha