Darjeeling, June 13: Union tourism minister Jagmohan has a proposal to make the toy train more appealing to the tourists: make the trip longer with a night’s stopover en route.
“The idea is to extend the journey of the Darjeeling Himlayan Railway with overnight halts at some of the stations. The journey now takes about six hours,” said Jagmohan.
The minister, who is in the district to attend the two-day Northeast Tourism Conclave beginning Saturday, left for Siliguri today. Before that, Jagmohan said: “We are keen to develop tourist places within a radius of 10-15 km from the rail route.”
“In the course of its journey, the train could stop at scenic spots with a night halt at places like Kurseong.”
In the past few years, the ministry has invested around Rs 7 crore to promote tourist spots along the rail track, he said, adding that the funds would keep flowing in future.
The train had begun journey in 1880 as the sole carrier of the hill people. Today, the slow narrow-gauge beauty has lost out to faster modes of transport with few wanting to make the six-hour journey.
The Northeast Frontier Railway has, in the recent past, introduced diesel engines with the aim of cutting down the duration of the journey.
The steam-engine-run train took more than 8 hours to complete its journey along the 88-km route from Darjeeling to New Jalpaiguri station.
The introduction of the diesel engine has curtailed the duration of the journey by almost two hours.
Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council chairman Subash Ghising, who called on the minister last evening, has reportedly shown keen interest in the minister’s suggestions.
“We want a synthesis of culture and tourism with a focus on the ecology of the area,” said Jagmohan.
Lauding the hill council for the new Shurberry Park, he said: “The park is a good example of the synthesis we have been talking about. We had released Rs 1.45 crore for this project and are ready to support similar projects in future.”