KOCHI: Kochi’s tourism prospects will soon get a major push with the Railways planning to introduce a steam locomotive for cruise tourists. And, if all goes well, the steam engine and a see-through coach, with a capacity of 60 passengers, will chug along the Vallarpadam-Edappally railway line by January.
Though steps in this regard are in the primary stage, the Southern Railways and the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation have expressed an interest in conducting the ride.
A proposal in this regard was mooted by the Cochin Port Trust (CPT), which is aimed at boosting cruise tourism initiatives.
Said Harikrishnan, Ernakulam Area Manager of Southern Railways: “A meeting was held with CPT officials, tour operators and cruise vessel agents. We are bringing in a steam locomotive from Madurai and CPT expressed an interest in this project after learning about the move. We are awaiting the response of tour operators and a final decision will be taken by mid-November.”
According to him, though two routes are being considered - Harbour Terminus to Ernakulam South and Vallarpadam to Edappally - tour operators and cruise agents are favouring the latter due to its scenic beauty. “Since it is a tourism-oriented project, they might insist on the Vallarpadam rail link as it is the longest railway bridge in the country (4.62 km) across the backwaters. However, a final decision is awaited,” says Harikrishnan.
With more cruise vessels hitting the Kochi shores, the CPT decided to pep up its tourism activities. The plan was to tap the interest of foreign tourists towards steam locomotives and to put Kochi on the global map.
The Vallarpadam Rail link, the longest rail bridge in India, connects the International Container Transhipment Terminal on Vallarpadam island with Edappally. It goes over the picturesque backwaters and through a string of small islands off the coast. The Cochin Harbour Terminus, which was in the news recently after a DEMU service was relaunched, is one of the oldest stations in the district and boasts of a heritage value. There are demands from many quarters to turn it into a tourist spot.