MATHERAN DREAMS OF A FUNICULAR RAILWAY FROM DHODANI TO MALET SPRING; Matheran Transport Scheme Part VI

Matheran, a Hill-Station in India, Maharashtra, is the only location in India, where no tar roads and no motorized vehicles are allowed. The only road access from NERAL at a height of 39.3 m above sea level on the East-Side ends at a height of 758 m and 2 km outside the town of Matheran at DASTURI. All materials, goods and delivery products have to be transhipped from arriving lorries and good carriers on hand pulled carts or pack horses and carried over a cart-road with steep gradients to Matheran Market at a height of 804 m above sea level. The cart road passes a hill-slip prone zone near Beatrice Cliff. During the heavy rainfalls of the 2005 monsoon, this “only supply route” got blocked by mud-, earth-, rock- slips and hill-slides.

The narrow gauge Toy Train from Neral to Matheran proofed to be not all-year-round reliable. Since 2005 the railway had to be closed down several times for month-long repairs and reconstructions after severe damages inflicted by heavy monsoon rainfalls.

The idea had been borne to look for alternative, more monsoon proof transport routes.

An Aerial Ropeway from the East-Side over the Garbut Rim proved to become uneconomical and heavily inflicting with the ecological sensitive declared zone of Matheran.

In 2009, it was during the tenure of the Matheran business tycoon Mr. Manoj Khedkar as the president of Matheran Municipal Council, that the idea of a Funicular Railway on the West Matheran Side along the slopes of the ravine between Porcupine Point and Maldunga Point from Dhodani to Malet Spring Point together with a feasibility report had been floated:

The technical paper reveals, that an about 2.5 km long  Funicular Railway on the West-Side of Matheran from a difficult to reach bottom station at the village Dodhani to an upper station in the forest near Malet Spring, about 1 mile outside of Matheran, will become extraordinary capital investment intensive  and highly inflicting with the nature preservation activities. A similar uncompleted project near Kalyan is in limbo, and the uncompleted steel trajectory/guideway is left to heavy corrosion, with no chance to be ever completed due to unsolved safety aspects. The chosen elevated trajectory is not safe against possible derailments.

After refurbishing the Neral-Dasturi tar-road, this “only road” is now in a quite good condition. However, some selected sections have to be further secured against Rock-Falls and Hill-Slides by state-of-the-art Rock-Fall  and Slope Stabilisation technologies.

The Car-Park at Dasturi got a pavement with interlocking cement stone blocks. It is said that the Taxi-Stand, Transhipment-Area and Horse-Stand will soon be also paved.

The visitor entrance from the toll boot up to the hand-cart/rickshaw stand has been dressed up with a new look.

Further programmes for the beautification of the infrastructure for visitors, tourists, customers and guests are in progress hoping that in the post corona period they will flock in as before.

The stony and dilapidated Dasturi-Matheran Cart-Road is currently under reconstruction and will get a smooth surface with brick paver blocks over a full 5 km length up tp Pandey Play Ground. Over lowering-spots, the alignment of the cart-road gets flattened by lifting on gabions and culverts of up to 2.5 m height. However, the steep gradient/incline at the hair-pin curvature before Wayside Inn will remain an unsolved obstacle. To lower the ruling gradient, the road has to be elongated by a new trace through the protected forest. But will be not allowed under the conservation rules.

In order to achieve an all-year-round reliable and stable route, the next step must be to prevent the section near Beatrice Cliff to slip further down. This could be done by a comprehensive surface-water management with a network of catch-drains. Gabions cannot stop hill-slides.

Once the cost effective East-Side transport route from Neral will become all-year-round safe operational and resistant against the impacts of heavy monsoon periods on the way to come, there will be no need any more for high capital investment alternatives.

To learn more, download the PDF:FUNICULAR MATHERAN

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