PALAMPUR: Kangra valley railway narrow gauge line, which plays significant role in the economy of this region of Himachal Pradesh, is in bad shape. Thanks to the apathy of Indian Railways, which made no efforts in past seventy years to convert this 120 kilometers long rail track into broad gauge line. The Britishers had laid down Kangra valley narrow gauge railway line in 1932 linking all important and religious towns of Kangra and part of Mandi districts. It is stated that the main object to lay this track was to carry heavy equipment for the installation of first ever hydro electric Power House at Jaoginder Nagar.
Unfortunately Indian Railways have not added even a single brick to this track in past 73 years. Number of plans was drawn up to convert this narrow gauge line into broad gauge line but all remained confined to files. With the manifold increase in the population and increase in the tourist traffic in past 25 years to the Kangra valley, but in the changed scenario the railways have failed to come to the expectations of the local people. The same century old and outdated engines and coaches have still been plying on this track. Even the railway authorities could not introduce the regular first class compartment here.At present seven trains are plying on this route daily covering 33 stations passing through important places like Nurpur, Jwali, Jwalamukhi Road, Kangra, Nagrota Bagwan, Chamunda, Palampur, Baijnath and Jogindernagar, which are also the major tourists attraction centers of the state. Railway authorities have been extending step motherly treatment to this rail section. No efforts were made even to set up a proper ticket window at Pathankot for this section.
The condition of the rail track between Pathankot and Joginder nagar has gone from bad to worse in past ten years, as the railway authorities have no funds to repair the same. Several small and big bridges are in bad shape. The retaining walls on the tracks have developed major cracks. Wooden logs of the railway line had already lived its life but no efforts were made to replace the same, which could result in any tragedy at any time time. The residential quarters and railway station buildings are also crying for repair.
Besides, almost all the 33 railway stations of Kangra valley railway line lack all basic facilities like drinking water, cleanliness and waiting room for the passengers. One would not believe that one dozen railway stations have been functioning in one room. Patti, Chauntra, Paror and Chamunda railway stations have no room for the passenger to sit. Even these stations have no temporary shed to save the passengers from sun and rain.
Family quarters of railway employees are the verge of collapse; their families are living in hellish conditions. No senior officer of the railways bothers to visit the track
Kangra valley is situated in the foot hills of Himalayas attract lakh of tourists every year, if the rail services are improved and better amenities are provided to the passengers, tourists would prefer to travel by train. The efforts should also be made to convert this rail line into broad gauge line. In past ten years all small gauge and meter gauge rail line in the south India have been converted into broad gauge line but the northern part of the country has been neglected in this field. If this line were converted into broad gauge line it would not only be convenient to local residents but would also add additional revenue to the railway authorities.
A CENTURY OLD RAILWAY ENGINE IS STILL PLYING ON KANGRA VALLEY RAILWAY LINE.
A senior journalist from Palampur.