No track upgrade to save Gir heritage line
The Times Of India
AHMEDABAD: The Indian Railways has decided to exempt a few of its metre-gauge lines from being converted to broad gauge due to their tourism and heritage appeal. These routes include the meter gauge train between Veraval and Amreli which passes through the Sagar sanctuary.
The nearly 50-km stretch from Talala to Visavadar will soon be declared a heritage line. The proposal to preserve it as a heritage route will mean that the line passing through the sanctuary will never be converted to broad gauge.
Ram Ratan Nala, deputy conservator of forests, said: "The meter gauge train which connects Veraval and Amreli makes just four trips — two up and two down each way. The train travels about 18 km into the sanctuary. It enters the sanctuary from Sasan and ends its journey within the sanctuary from Kansiya Nesh."
"As it passes through the sanctuary, the train travels slowly of speed not more than 20 km per hour. Fortunately, so far there has been no incident of lion death on these tracks. There have been a couple of incidents where the train was halted as a lion was passing on the track," Nala said.
He further said that there are several underpasses which were originally constructed for flow of water but now they are being used by the lions.
According to officials, until now only five such stretches have been identified. They have not been converted to broad gauge but are being maintained as heritage lines. These stretches fall in Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat. According to officials, most of these stretches pass through sanctuaries or tourist spots.
Officials said that the union railway ministry is thinking of running special heritage and tourist trains on these stretches. Rupa Srinivasan, the divisional railway manager, Bhavnagar, said they had been asked to conduct a feasibility study as this stretch will then have to be isolated from the other routes. "Also, separate facility for maintenance of these locomotives and coaches will have to be built. However, the proposal sent by the Bhavnagar division has been accepted in principal and a feasibility study will now be carried out," Srininvasan said.
Officials in Sasan said that even if the railways wants to convert these heritage routes there is hardly any possibility that the National Board for Wildlife will accord final approval of gauge conversion will lead to increase in speed which cannot be permitted.
These trains pass through the sanctuary between 11 pm and 12 noon while another set of train passes between 3 pm and 4:30 pm. The passenger traffic was not more than 50 passengers per trip, the officials said.