Writes: Vivek Chhetri
A steam engine at Darjeeling railway station on Monday. Picture by Mohan Lama
Darjeeling, Nov. 14: A senior railway official today said the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway was expected to fill up its coffers twice more this fiscal compared to the last financial year and might break even next year.
Sources in the hill railway said the revenue had gone up because of hike in fares and introduction of more rides, along with an increase in the passenger traffic.
The DHR, which started operations in 1881 and was accorded the heritage status by the Unesco in 1999, has been running at a loss for decades. The hill railway has 13 century-old steam engines and six diesel locomotives.
G. Ram, the general manager of the Northeast Frontier Railway, today said: “We are happy to announce that the DHR’s revenue generation has increased by 100 per cent compared to last year. The vision of the NFR is that the DHR should be a vibrant organisation and should be financially viable.”
The annual expenses of the DHR stand at Rs 15 crore. “In the last financial year, we had collected around Rs 5 crore. The figure is expected to be more than Rs 10 crore this year and next year, we intend to break even,” said Ram.
According to DHR sources, in the 2013-14 fiscal year, the revenue was only Rs 1.84 crore. “In 2015-16, the revenue generation went up to Rs 5.45 crore,” said a DHR official.
However, the sources couldn’t say when the DHR had made profit the last time.
“Aggressive marketing and our sincerity to address grievances of passengers have resulted in better results. There is much interest in the DHR. There is no dearth of clients as the DHR has the largest fleet of steam engines in the world. The younger generation has never seen steam engines. When there is so much clientele and I am not being able to make money, it forces me to think that something is wrong with us,” said Ram.
The sources said, compared to 2013-14, passenger traffic had increased from 60,000 to 1 lakh in the current financial year. “This fiscal year, we are expecting around 1.7 lakh tourists to take rides,” said a source.
In February last year, the DHR also increased the rate of joyride per passenger on the Darjeeling-Ghoom- Darjeeling route to Rs 1,100 for steam engines and Rs 605 for diesel locos from Rs 400. The number of joyrides was also increased from six to nine during the current tourism season. The joyrides are the biggest revenue generator for the DHR and six rides are by steam locos and the rest by diesel engines.
Each steam ride can take 59 passengers, while 83 travellers can be hauled by a diesel engine. The DHR is planning to introduce special coaches for charter rides. One can charter a ride for rates ranging from Rs 19,500 to Rs 57,000 depending on the number of coaches.
A Unesco team that is working on a conservation plan for the DHR had earlier said it had received feedback that the toy train service did not meet the criteria to command heritage status and was close to being put on the “danger list.”
Paul Atkins, the technical consultant of Unseco, had earlier said the DHR was facing challenges in terms of maintaining physical features, restructuring of work force and excessive encroachment on tracks.
Ram said the DHR had taken the concerns seriously. “We have taken it very seriously as the world heritage status means a lot for us and under no circumstances will we like it to go away. The concerns raised by Unseco are genuine and we are addressing them. I am sure that the status will remain,” said Ram.
The top official of the NFR said the Unesco had been asked by the hill railway to prepare a conservation management plan so that the DHR could follow it for maintaining the heritage status.
[Via: The Telegraph]
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