Chennai: Indian Railways may try linking four tourist attractions in the state — Mamallapuram, Gangaikonda Cholapuram, Mudhumalai national park and Kodaikanal — to its rail network when the next route expansion is suggested. Mamallapuram, Gangaikonda Cholapuram, Mudhumalai national park are Unesco heritage sites. These locations have been assessed as tourist destinations without a rail connection as the nearest railway stations are 25km to 120km away.
The National Rail Plan draft, prepared to chalk out a plan to expand the rail network in the country by 2050, says rail links to tourist spots were important as tourist areas play a pivotal role in the economy of a country. Trains are always preferred and considered safe, convenient, reliable and economical to travel to tourist destinations by domestic as well as international tourists, the draft cited.
A comprehensive list of tourist spots and cities in all states that do not have rail connectivity has been prepared so they could be linked on priority when an expansion is considered.
“This could be considered as the first step towards bringing trains closer to these spots. It may not be feasible to lay new lines to all these spots, especially through forest areas, but the idea could be to bring trains closer so that visitors can use them to reach these spots. A list of locations that need to be linked is now ready after a study,” said a railways official.
The unsuccessful attempt of railways to link Mamallapuram, through a new line from Chennai to Cuddalore via Mamallapuram, shows that construction of new lines is expensive and time consuming. The linking was proposed, included in the budget and a survey was done in 2008 but it has not taken off yet. The total project cost has touched Rs 1,200 crore and acquiring land will be tough due to residential and commercial developments between OMR and ECR, along which the line was planned.
N Ravi, a former TTDC official, said, “We have to see who the customers will be. Domestic tourists may not prefer trains as they would want to cover two to three destinations at the shortest possible time.” “Rail links may help cater to foreign tourists if rail-cum-road tours, by which tourists who arrive by trains can be moved into buses and vans for further trips, can be operated. The state used to bring tourists from Mumbai, Hyderabad, Delhi and Bengaluru on such tours.”