Diesel toy trains back in Darjeeling hills

A day after the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) contractor’s association forced the closure of toy trains, DHR on Thursday ran the diesel engine train.

On Wednesday, the DHR contractor’s association had demanded closure of the the toy train ride demanding payment of their pending dues. The pending amount is pegged at Rs 1 crore that has not been paid for over four to five months.

Tourists to the Hills were also left disappointed after the toy train rides got cancelled owing to the agitation.

All the four long distance rides from Darjeeling to Kurseong have been suspended. These trains instead have been pressed into service for the shorter but more favorable joy ride from Darjeeling to Ghoom.

Siliguri-Darjeeling toy train run to resume soon

Direct toy train services between Siliguri and Darjeeling are likely to resume by the end of 2013. Coming under fire from the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) MLAs over the lack of infrastructure in the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR), railway minister Mukul Roy announced this at Darjeeling on Sunday. The GJM leaders also demanded that the Darjeeling Mail be extended up to Gulma, which falls within the territory of the Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA). They also demanded that the Gulma station be renamed Darjeeling Road.

It was the first official programme for Bimal Gurung, chief executive of the GTA and its other members. During the oath-taking ceremony on Saturday, the GJM leaders had received a number of sermons on how to behave in a responsible manner. A day after, it was their turn to remind the railway minister how the DHR – a Unesco World Heritage Site – has been neglected.

“During our childhood days, there used to be a large number of services of the toy train. Today, there are only a few services. Infrastructure has not been developed. The Darjeeling station has no mention that it is home to a World Heritage Site. Even the plaque at the New Jalpaiguri (NJP) station has disappeared. The DHR requires a lot of care. It was the first industrial site in Asia to have been inscribed as a World Heritage Site, but the Indian Railways haven’t come up with plans for its conservation. A director has been appointed to the DHR, but he has to commute to Darjeeling every day from Siliguri, said Rohit Sharma, MLA, Kurseong.

Gurung pointed to how the Tindharia workshop and the tracks there were devastated during the last major earthquake in the area.

“Ever since we began our agitation, we have been demanding that the Gulma station be renamed Darjeeling Road and trains like the Darjeeling Mail, Mahananda Express and Kanchanjungha Express start from there. I would also urge the railway minister to level the DHR tracks that cross National Highway-55 for the benefit of motorists and reserve more quotas in trains from this area,” Gurung said.

According to Darjeeling MLA Trilok Dewan, development of the Gulma station will lead to socio-economic development of the area.

“In the GTA Agreement, there was a clause to extend the broad-gauge line up to Sukna. This isn’t possible due to the non-availability of space. We want the Gulma station to be developed instead, so that people don’t have to travel all the way to NJP from Darjeeling,” he said.

Roy said that the proposal to rename Gulma station has been sent to the ministry of home affairs. The general manager of Northeast Frontier Railway will decide the operational feasibility of running long-distance trains from there.

“We are trying to connect the hills of Darjeeling by rail. Several surveys, including the one between Sevoke and Mirik are already over while others are underway. All these projects will lead to development. We are also working on a budget hotel and a functional centre at the Darjeeling station. Several development projects are also on in Kurseong. The ministry of road transport has already cleared Rs 55 crore for the repair of the stretch of NH-55 near Tindharia. I also promise that we will resume services between Darjeeling and Siliguri by the end of 2013,” Roy said.

During the day, Roy flagged off two toy train services between Darjeeling and Ghum and Darjeeling and Kurseong.