July 6, 2019
It remains to be seen if the LDF Government in Kerala will show the will to recreate history by reviving railway service introduced by the British in the hill station of Munnar over a century ago.
The Government has started preliminary work to studying the feasibility of relaying railway lines.
The District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC) and Tata Tea conducted a study under the initiative of CPM leader S Rajendran, MLA.
The plan is to operate the service from Munnar to Mattupetty on the model of those in Ooty and Darjeeling.
A move was made during the Congress-led UDF Government in 2012 under Emerging Kerala ‘heritage railway and ropeway’ at a cost of Rs 500 crore.
But it failed to take off due to lack of political will.
In 2009, railway board chairman K C Jena made another attempt which too made little headway.
This time the attempt is positive and if political support is received it would kick off, says Rajendran.
The British set up railway network in Munnar in 1902 in a small length and later extended it from Munnar to top station. It remained until 1924 when a devastating flood washed away the rail network.
The service was there in the hill station about 30 years before the present Thiruvananthapuram central station was opened on November 4, 1931.
The service in Munnar was operated by a private company Kundala Valley Railway to transport tea through monorail system which is said to be the first in the country. The monorail was there until 1908. Under this system a small wheel rolled on the track while a large wheel rotated on the road to balance the carriage which was pulled by bullocks.
It was converted to narrow gauge in 1908.
The main aim of the service was to promote tea trading within the country and abroad. The railway was used to carry the consignment to about 40 km from Munnar to Top Station in the Kannan Devan Hills.
Consignments were unloaded at Top Station from where tea chests were sent by ropeway to Bottom Station at Kottagudi in Tamil Nadu which is about 5 km from Top Station.
From Kottagudi the goods were carried 15 km to Bodinaikkanur railway station by carts.
The government has not even taken any step to protect the remains of the railway line of the British era. Thanks to the efforts of Tata Tea for preserving some parts of the train in its museum in Munnar. The rail lines can still be seen as street lamp posts in the town.
Kerala Rail Development Corporation (KRDC) is planning to do it on a public-private participation mode with the support of Tata Tea, DTPC Idukki secretary P V Jayan told The Covai Post.
The motive was to promote tourism and the initiative had been taken by the Tourism Ministry, he said.
The KRDC would conduct a feasibility study.
He said the plan was to lay the railway line through the route used by the British.