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22 Apr 2018

Cry to restore toy train hubs

Sonada station, one of the two burnt during the statehood agitation last year 
BIRESWAR BANERJEE, TT, Apr 22, 2018, Siliguri: Two stations of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) torched during last year's statehood agitation are yet to be rebuilt even as other facilities such as AC coaches for the toy train have been introduced.

Residents and tour operators are disappointed that the DHR - on the Unesco list of world heritage sites - has not been able to take up the renovation of Sonada and Gayabari stations over nine months after they were damaged.

"The stations bear testimony to the violence last year. Now that peace has returned to the hills, it is important that the railways start repair and restoration work on these buildings," said Ramesh Lama, a Kurseong resident.

The trains now stop at the two stations, where makeshift arrangements have been made to issue tickets and provide other basic amenities. Unesco has expressed concern over the damage to the stations. Agitators had torched the Sonada station on July 8 and the one at Gayabari five days later.

The toy trains had to be stopped on June 12 last year during the statehood agitation and resumed their run in October after the end of the shutdown that lasted over three months. Also, one of the floors of the Elysia Building - the headquarters of the DHR in Kurseong - was ransacked.

"We are well aware of preserving the heritage properties. We have sent a detailed report to Unesco and are waiting for their response. Once we receive necessary instructions, we will work accordingly," an official of the Northeast Frontier Railway said.

Tour operators stressed the need for quick restoration.

"The toy train is a major tourist attraction. People have started making reservations and many are already visiting the Darjeeling hills. We feel the stations should be renovated immediately," said Debasish Maitra, president of the Eastern Himalaya Travel and Tour Operators Association.

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