Southern Railway is to proceed with the redevelopment project of two historic railway stations situated along the Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR) line, particularly the one in Udhagamandalam (Ooty), despite strong opposition.
Both Udhagamandalam and Coonoor railway stations will undergo renovation. The aim is to enhance the overall ambience of these stations.
The redevelopment of Udhagamandalam and Coonoor railway stations will be carried out within the framework of the Amrit Bharat Station Scheme. The Udhagamandalam Railway Station will be revamped at a cost of Rs 7 crore, while the Coonoor Railway Station will see a transformation with an investment of Rs 6.7 crore.
The upgrade work is intended to provide modern facilities for passengers and enhance the aesthetics of the stations, as stated in a press release.
The planned improvements encompass various aspects, such as widening of traffic lanes, construction of pedestrian pathways, provision of vehicle parking facilities, landscaping enhancements, upgrades to the station facades, improved lighting, modernisation of interior spaces, renovation of waiting halls and restroom facilities, and platform repairs.
Inclusivity features for individuals with disabilities, including handrails, ramps, and low-height water taps, will also be incorporated. Additionally, passenger information systems, train indication boards, coach indication boards, and CCTV cameras will be installed.
In recent weeks, conservationists have strongly opposed the railway’s “redevelopment” efforts in the vicinity of the Udhagamandalam railway station.
They assert that the wetland, which supports a diverse range of native flora and fauna, has been completely obliterated by railway activities, leading to adverse effects on biodiversity and an increased risk of flooding in Udhagamandalam town, reports The Hindu.
Conservationists have written letters to the forest department, the collector, and the railways, urging an immediate halt to the destruction of the wetland and called for its restoration.
Nevertheless, Udagamandalam and Coonoor railway stations are integral parts of the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
However, these stations remain in active use, necessitating the provision of improved and contemporary amenities for both passengers and tourists visiting these locations.
The renovation will be carried out in a manner that preserves the heritage value of the railway station buildings, according to Southern Railways.
The inception of the Mettupalaiyam-Ooty railway dates back to 1854 when the initial plans were drafted to construct a mountain railway connecting Mettupalaiyam to the Nilgiri Hills.
However, it took a staggering 45 years for decision-makers to navigate the bureaucratic obstacles and finally complete the construction and installation of this rail line.
On 15 June 1899, the line was officially completed and opened for traffic, initially operated by the Madras Railway under a government agreement.
The Mettupalaiyam-Ooty railway spans a length of 45.88 km, traversing through both Coimbatore and Nilgiri Districts of Tamil Nadu, situated on the eastern slopes of the Western Ghats.
The journey commences at Mettupalaiyam, situated at the foothills with an elevation of approximately 330 metres, culminating at Udagamandalam on the plateau, perched at an elevation of 2200 metres. The average gradient along this line is roughly 1 in 24.5.
This railway features a metre gauge (1,000 mm) track, with the sharpest curve on the section measuring 17.5 degrees. The rail line includes a total of 250 bridges, of which 32 are major ones and 15 are road-over bridges. Moreover, there are 16 tunnels between Kallar and Ooty, all of which remain in excellent condition.
The section from Mettupalaiyam to Udagamandalam is equipped with stone ballast, with the cushion varying from 75 mm to 150 mm. The maximum permissible speed on the ‘non-rack’ sections of Mettupalaiyam-Kallar and Coonoor-Udagamandalam is 30 kmph, whereas the “RACK” section between Kallar and Coonoor has a maximum permissible speed of 13 kmph.
Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2005, the line’s enduring charm remains intact, making it a must-visit for heritage enthusiasts.