THE MUMBAI Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) is set to revive a decade-old plan of introducing funicular railway in Matheran to attract tourists and provide better connectivity to local residents. The proposal will be forwarded for approval at an upcoming meeting of the development authority scheduled on February 28 but will now be held within two weeks.
In 2009, the MMRDA mooted the plan of starting a funicular railway in Matheran with services between Dudhani village and Maillot Spring Point on the basis of public-private-partnership. However, the plan was dropped due to technical issues. Again in 2016, the MMRDA wanted to revive the same plan but it could not take off.
According to the subject matter for the meeting, the MMRDA has mentioned a detailed project report (DPR) of the funicular railway in Matheran, which has an estimated expenditure of Rs 130 crore. A senior MMRDA official said during the monsoon, the Central Railway (CR) suspends the Neral-Matheran toy train services from June to September, which adversely affects travel plans of residents and tourists.
“The funicular rail is aimed at providing connectivity during the monsoon as well. This will help local residents and tourists reach their destinations easily,” the official added. Once approved, it will take two years to construct the path for the funicular rail.
The MMRDA has decided to stick to the original plan with a few crores added as cost escalation. The existing Neral-Matheran narrow gauge railway line operated by the CR is 20 km long. It takes about two hours to cover this distance.
In the absence of toy trains during the monsoon, commute by road also becomes difficult. A majority of the local residents use horses to commute or walk for nearly 3 km. The funicular rail will take about 15 to 20 minutes to cover the same distance.
A senior official from the CR, who was in charge of the toy train operations, said, “Funicular rail runs with the help of electric cables and can function during the monsoon as well. If the MMRDA is planning for such a service, it will definitely help tourists. A funicular rail is an electric cable path on rail that takes people up a slope.”
At present, such a service is available in Europe, the USA, and Japan. In India, Tamil Nadu has its own funicular railway.
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