Even as there is joy among the elected representatives of Matheran over the fact that, during the recent Rail Budget, Rs15 crore was allocated for five engines for the mini train between Neral and Matheran, there are further demands to improve the tourist facilities at the stations.”It’s a big relief that railway minister Suresh Prabhu has fulfilled his promise and given a huge boost to tourism by providing funds for five new engines and, already, the trials for one of the engines have begun. So Matheran will soon boast of five better engines, which will be more powerful and be able to pull more coaches as well,” said Manoj Khedkar, a councillor of the Matheran Municipal Council and leader of the opposition, who had written to the chief minister and met Prabhu, too, with this demand.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He added that Matheran annually sees around 10 lakh tourists and many are there to enjoy the Matheran Hill Railway, which is why the rail infrastructure needs to be upgraded to attract more visitors. “The existing engines were unable to pull the load, were regularly developing snags and at times took more than four hours to complete the journey of 21km. However, once we have a complete fleet with the new engines, more coaches can be attached, while the speed and frequency of the train will also increase,” Khedkar said.However, apart from this, there are demands for toilets and water kiosks being set up as well, apart from for the old railway canteen being started at Matheran station. “There are three stations between Neral and Matheran — Jummapatti, Waterpipe and Amanlodge — and we want these stations to have proper facilities so that people want to visit Matheran again and again as tourism is one of the major sources of livelihood for the locals at this hill station,” Khedkar said, adding that there were no toilets at present and passengers using the narrow gauge trains regularly complain about that fact.A senior Central Railways official said, “A 600hp engine is undergoing trials and will soon be inducted in the fleet. Meanwhile, regarding the demand for toilets, the problem is that the hill station being an eco-sensitive zone, getting permissions is extremely difficult and the Matheran Municipal Council should be taking steps to set up mobile toilets.”

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Demand for better tourist facilities at Matheran