TAMIL NADU

NMR services not likely in near-future

A bridge near the Hill Grove station of the Nilgiris Mountain Railway, badly damaged in a recent landslip.

A bridge near the Hill Grove station of the Nilgiris Mountain Railway, badly damaged in a recent landslip.  

UDHAGAMANDALAM, DEC. 30. ``Even if work commences forthwith and is done expeditiously, train services on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR) between Coonoor and Udhagamandalam can be restored only after four or 5 months.''

This is the view of railway sources and knowledgeable persons with whom this correspondent interacted today on the extensive damage to portions of the track near the Hill Grove station caused by a massive landslip which occurred at Pudhukkadu-Karumbadi above Burliar in the small hours of Thursday last following heavy rain.

Smaller landslips which occurred earlier resulted in suspension of services between Coonoor and Mettupalayam and it was announced that they would be restored immediately after the track was cleared of the debris. However after Thursday's landslip, re-opening of the line has become a big question mark.

A visit to the devastated area showed that boulders weighing several tonnes, which had rolled down along with mountains of soil and vegetation from a considerable height, completely destroyed a 100-foot bridge near Hill Grove constructed over a hundred years ago by the British as part of the NMR line, described as a ``marvel of engineering skill''. While the concrete pillars have been reduced to rubble, the rails and the special rack bars have been severed.

Landslips also occurred at 18 other places on the line between Coonoor and Mettupalayam. Since the calamity in November 1993, when a massive landslip caused havoc at Marappalam on the Mettupalayam-Coonoor stretch, no such devastation had been caused to the line, said railway sources at Hill Grove.

Railway officials from the Nilgiris and other places in the division have inspected the damage and senior officials from the Southern Railway and the Ministry are expected shortly.

The process of restoration of the line involves a high level assessment of the damage, drawing up of a plan of action and floating of tenders, it is learnt. There is also the question of allocation of special funds.

As a trip to the Nilgiris sans a ride on the unique, ``Mountain train'' is considered incomplete, many tourists who are here are disappointed. Concerned citizens have urged the State and Union Governments to accord top priority to restoring the mountain train service at least before the commencement of the peak period of the 2002 summer tourist season.

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