Fresh attempts to get heritage status for Matheran Light Rail

After failing to ensure a place for it on the World Heritage Site list in 2009, Railways is making fresh attempts to see that the Matheran Light Rail (MLR) gets enlisted by UNESCO this time.

"We are making fresh attempts to make the MLR a World Heritage Site and accordingly a new application is being sent to UNESCO," said Subodh Jain, general manager of Central Railway.

Matheran, located on the Western Ghats range at 2,625 ft above sea level, is connected with Neral station by a unique 2-foot narrow gauge rail track and has been operational for more than a hundred years.

The construction of the Neral-Matheran line in Maharashtra was started in 1904 and the toy train had its first run in 1907.

The Railways first submitted the proposal to include the Matheran rail on UNESCO heritage list in 2006. Three years later, UNESCO conveyed its decision to the Railways citing various reasons for not giving its nod.

In the meantime, a major chunk of the line got washed away due to heavy rains, but it was restored and made operational in February 2007.

"If it gets the WHS status, the hill station will attract the attention of global tourists and this will transform the economy of the area," said Jain. The toy train hauled by diesel engine is, however, running losses as the expenditure is exceeding the earning. "Though it is a loss making route we want it to be inscribed in the World Heritage list. We are trying to make it financially viable by introducing a shuttle service during the monsoon," said Jain.

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