The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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French funds for toy train

Darjeeling, June 29: The French government will draw up a master plan to make the loss-incurring Darjeeling Himalayan Railway viable at the request of the Unesco, which has given the “toy train” a world heritage status.

A five-member French delegation, which attended the two-day International Stakeholder Workshop here, has promised to provide financial assistance and technical knowhow to conserve the heritage railway.

The initiative comes as part of a pact that was reached in 1997 between Unesco and the French government. The country had committed itself towards conserving the world heritage sites across the globe.

The toy train was accorded the status in 2000. During the two days of deliberation, representatives of various organisations felt the need to create a master-plan for the region.

According to the French team, the development of the DHR is not possible without the betterment of the hill community. Hence, the master plan will cover everything from heritage and environment conservation to the ailing tea industry, infrastructure development and women empowerment, they added.

Director of Regional Nature Park in Languedor Rousillan, one of the largest nature parks in France, Jerome Arnaud said: “The French government is looking forward to a long-term relationship with the DHR through the Unesco. As a first step, the Regional Nature Park has decided to prepare a master plan on DHR conservation.”

The French, he said, will provide technical and financial assistance to renovate the DHR stations and the railway tracks. Arnaud, however, refused to give details on the financial package.

The commitment from the French officials could go a long way in developing the colonial-era railway, which had started out as the sole carrier of the hill people in 1880.

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