The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Summer special will take a train to Calcutta

As the mercury rises, mango mania is at fever pitch. With a bumper crop promising a steady supply this year, Eastern Railway (ER) has pitched in to ensure that the summer fruit reaches the Calcutta customer as soon as possible, before going bad in the heat.

In order to explore ways to mobilise more resources, ER has, for the first time, decided to carry mangoes to Calcutta from two of the largest growing regions — Bhagalpur, in Bihar, and Malda, in West Bengal.

Railway general manager Sunil Sengupta said on Thursday that in the past, ER had freighted the fruits from Vijaywada to Delhi and other areas of north India. But this is the first time that transportation of mangoes has been proposed by the railway. Talks with mango growers’ and merchants’ bodies are on the menu.

“It is much better to transport mangoes in railway rakes. Taking into consideration the congestion on the roads, the fruits may rot if the trucks are held up in traffic snarls on the way,” Sengupta added.

Mango merchants of Malda will hold a meeting with the railway authorities to work out the modalities. Senior railway officials said the mango merchants were keen to have the fruit transported to Calcutta by railway wagons. However, they admitted that there would be stiff competition from the road transport operators. A senior railway official pointed out that from Bhagalpur, over 16 wagons of mangoes were expected this season, which, if transported by road, would take nearly 50 trucks to carry.

Sengupta said the ER was also keen to improve services for Buddhist tourists who arrive in Calcutta to visit Bodh Gaya, Sarnath and Vikramshila. He clarified that special night trains will be run from Howrah to the three places of Buddhist pilgrimage. Elaborating on the fact that developing tourism in Bengal was another focal point of the railway’s plans, the general manager pointed out that ER was also working towards making the Sunderbans and Santiniketan appealing to visitors.

“Sunderbans is emerging as a major tourist attraction. We are holding talks with the government on the prospects in this area and the role of the railway, which can expand its network in the region,” Sengupta said. “In Santiniketan, we have modernised the station. Already, Chirantani, the railway coach in which Tagore travelled to Calcutta from Santiniketan for the last time, has been renovated and is attracting a lot of attention. We plan to develop some areas there with assistance from Visva Bharati, for tourism purposes.”

The railway is also reviving part of the 400-km track in the Calcutta port complex, where it intends to take new initiatives in the freight sector and has planned increased movement of goods to and from the port, including container traffic.

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