Shimla-Kalka heritage rail track witnesses 70% decline in tourist footfall

Published on : Monday, April 19, 2021

Before the revival in COVID cases, trains on the track were running at full swing, particularly the special vista dome coaches, launched in 2019 and are a major tourist attraction.

With the second wave of this pandemic, passenger traffic on the Shimla-Kalka heritage rail track has seen almost a 70% decline in a fortnight.

Before the reappearance of fresh new COVID cases, trains on the track were running at its full speed, especially the special vista dome coaches launched in 2019 and are a major tourist draw. To quote Shimla railway station superintendent, Prince Sethi, “The trains were almost running to full capacity but now only 30% passengers are boarding the train. There have been no bookings for the vista dome coaches.”

The new rail coaches have a tough glass roof top. This will enable passengers to have a better and broader view of their surroundings. Also, they have night-vision closed-circuit cameras with LED screens, air conditioning, modern toilets, and an infotainment system. The Shimla narrow-gauge rail line was made by the British in 1903 to connect with Shimla, the summer capital. This track is a UNESCO heritage site and every day, five trains run on the track. After the outbreak, rail services had been hung up and in December 2020, the service resumed after 10 months of close down.
In the middle of the spike in cases, several restrictions are being announced one after the other, bringing the industry to a grinding halt in Himachal.

“The financial health of the tourism industry is already in a shambles as all tourism units had remained closed for seven to eight months last year. The industry was slowly reviving when there was a resurgence in cases and restrictions were reimposed,” said MK Seth, president, Himachal Pradesh Tourism Stakeholder Association .

“The stakeholders were at least getting some revenue to meet their expenses but the second wave of infections has broken the backbone of the tourism industry in Himachal,” he said.

From mid-March to mid-July, Himachal Pradesh traditionally receives huge rush of tourists, of which tourists from Gujarat and Maharasthra form the huge portion.

“It has become difficult for stakeholders to keep their units running due to shortage of funds. All advance bookings are being cancelled. The recent advisory issued by the state government, making it mandatory for tourists coming from seven high caseload states to bring a negative Covid report, has completely stopped the influx of tourists,” Seth said.

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