Mumbai: As number of tourists decline, Matheran Toy train gets a poor response

After witnessing a rise in the number of tourists since the lockdown was lifted, Matheran seems to be facing another hit this year, as peak season approaches. According the Central Railway (CR) data the number of tourists taking the popular toy trains that operates between Neral and Matheran hill station is presently operational between Matheran and Aman Lodge railway stations is gradually declining.

A total of 1,10,702 passengers travelled by train between November 2020 and March 15, 2021 as per the Central Railway (CR) data. The train services witnessed an increase in the number of passengers in January and then dipped in February.

Around 33,515 passengers travelled by the toy train in January, while in February, 20,548 passengers travelled by the toy trains and up till March 15, 11,507 passengers travelled as per the Central Railway data.

“More than Rs. 67 lakhs have been earned by the ticket sales of the toy train services. There seems to be a gradual decline in the number of tourists taking the toy train.” said a senior Central Railway official.

The services were suspended in June, 2020 due to pandemic induced lockdown. The zonal railway then resumed the toy train operations on November 3, 2020, after demands from passengers and luggage vendors. Initially, two toy train services were operated between Aman Lodge and Matheran and later four additional train services were operated.

Earlier, the CR had resumed parcel train services to provide essential food items for the people residing in Matheran. The services were suspended on June 2, 2020, after poor response.

In better times, the hill station witnesses at least six to seven lakh domestic and foreign tourists every year, the peak season being summer holidays and a few days in winter. A majority of those visiting are day tourists. However since last year due to Pandemic revenue at Matheran has been severely hit, the council even requested the state government to consider offering them a financial package as Matheran depends totally on the revenue earned through tourism.

"Of the 365 days, only 85 days are considered as the peak season for Matheran tourism. While we couldn't fully get the profit from the 40 days of winter, the entire 45 days during summer too were ruined for us last year. This year while winter was a little better, summer does not seem to be good as the number of cases in the state are rapidly rising. The municipal council earns at least Rs 4 crore each year through the collection of entry fees at the main gate of Matheran." said Manoj Sawant, a resident of Matheran and owner of a hotel.

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