This is hardly breaking news, though it’s only just come to our attention and is a certain vote winner on the SEO front. There was a serious landslide at Paglajoura on 10th June 2010 which took out not just the railway line, but the road too. They spend most of their time intertwined anyway. The Railways are now waiting for the road to get fixed before they sort out the track. The people in charge of that aren’t taking the matter too seriously, and so it’s been closed for 7 months already, and will probably be for another 2, thus crippling a string of businesses dependent on the railway and tourism. And yes, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. I don’t know who is to blame for all this, but between the railways, the road authorities and the local and regional government, this is the world’s largest democracy at it’s incapable worst.
It’s not closed all the way, just south of Kurseong. The steam trains only run on the top bit anyway so you can still do that back and forth from Darjeeling to Ghum. But you are now obliged to take the road up the hill, and take a detour at Sukna. I’m still trying to work out how long the extended road journey now is. The Railways are hoping to re-open the line in early March 2011. But beware if you are planning to go there beforehand, the railways still think it’s OK to sell tickets on it even though it’s shut, which can leave you at Siliguri station feeling that you’ve been had.
I’ve been a bit mean complaining about this not being fixed yet, check out John Clemmens’s photos of the damage on the DHRS website, it’s a humungous landslide.
Latest estimates for re-opening are end of April, just in time for the monsoon!.
In other news, The Railway have finally confessed that the Arunachal Express isn’t bookable on account of the entire line being shut, and so we can now re-book scot free. We still hope to do the colliery at Tipong, but we will now bounce straight out of the eastern end on the Friday night, and spend 2 nights in Darjeeling instead. The 36 hours we now have at Darjeeling allows us to play all day on the Toy/Joy Train without the bags, and also cleanse undies and generally arse about blogging and stuff. The good folks at the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Society will be in Siliguri the same day that we arrive from the East, Saturday 26th Feb, so we hope to be able present them with first hand reports on the continued service of the steam engine at Tipong Colliery. I’m going to make a bit more effort now to see if we will be lucky enough to arrive on a steaming day at the colliery.
We haven’t given up all hope on the Arunachal, but at least we have a reliable fall back position. If we get a credible offer of help, which will probably involve blokes in uniforms tuning up at Tinsukia station, we can go for it, and anyone who doesn’t want to do it can just jump on the Rajdhani back to New Jalpaiguri.
Here’s a picture of a mini bus attacking the DHR. This train goes slow down the hill, and you can walk backwards quicker than it on the way up. So try and work out how the heck this happened. 180,000 people died on India’s roads in 2009, I guess at least some of them must have been minding their own business sitting on a nice safe train.