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Toy train service misses date with Christmas, Resumption deferred to Jan 2015

Darjeeling : The toy train has missed its date with Christmas. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway on Wednesday deferred the decision to resume train services from Siliguri to Darjeeling, set to begin from Thursday after a hiatus of more than three years. Regular services will resume from January 2015, said a DHR release. The Siliguri to Darjeeling service that covers a distance of 87km traversing some of the most beautiful natural sceneries came to an abrupt halt in 2010 after a huge landslide destroyed a major chunk of National Highway 55. Nearly 500m of the highway between Ghayabari and Kurseong at Paglajhora was swept away including the toy train tracks. Ever since restoration work finally got complete earlier this year, the DHR has been making trial runs. Northeast Frontier Railway general manager RS Vridi on Wednesday said during a trial run, “I have made a detailed inspection of the repair work on the train tracks and am fairly satisfied. However, we want to undertake some more trial runs to ensure the repaired sections are safe before resuming regular services.” It may be noted here that toy train services between Darjeeling and Kurseong were not affected. 

The 16km-long Darjeeling-Ghoom steam engine joy ride too has been functioning normally. When asked about the next probable date for resuming the Siliguri to Darjeeling services, the general manager said, “I had a close look at the lines at Paglajhora, the most vulnerable point, and found them satisfactory. With trial runs underway at present, we expect to start operating the Siliguri to Darjeeling service from January next year.” The DHR bagged the coveted status of a World Heritage Site at the 23rd session of the UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee on December 2, 1999. Despite this, the star tourist puller has been facing difficult times due to frequent disruptions in services. DHR assistant divisional mechanical engineer Basant Raj Diyali said the trial runs are being conducted from Gayabari to Mahanadi while one would be conducted from Siliguri to Darjeeling and back on Thursday morning to check for probable faults along the route. “We are taking trial runs on stretches were the tracks have been repaired. We will conduct more runs before we re-start services,” he said, adding the trial runs that began from December 9 have been successful so far. Vridi also took a short ride to Darjeeling from Ghoom station, but refused to say anything about future plans for the DHR, saying policy matters are the onus of Parliament.
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