UNESCO team to evaluate Matheran rail in September


A high-level team of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) will inspect Matheran railway, operational since 1907 in the Sahaydri mountain range near Mumbai, which was selected by UNESCO in its tentative list of World Heritage Sites three years back.

"The ICOMOS team would assess the outstanding universal value, its conservation management and authenticity aspects among others of this unique mountain railway during the visit," a senior Railway Ministry official said.

The team would also examine the socio-economic importance of this 20-km-long narrow gauge rail service in Matheran.

The visit is important because UNESCO will accord the World Heritage Site status depending upon the recommendation of the ICOMOS team, the official said.

Railways had made a breakthrough in 1999 in securing World Heritage Site status for the Darjeeling Railway and this was dedicated to the nation by then Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee.

The process then set in motion led to the subsequent addition to the list of Mumbai CST in 2004, Neelgiri Railway in 2005 and Kalka-Shimla Railway in 2008.

Indian Railway's constant endeavour in preserving and conserving its heritage is now culminating in the possible inclusion of Matheran Railway in the UNESCO's heritage list that is coming up for inspection by ICOMOS in September.

The six-coach heritage Mathran train passes through a difficult and steep mountainous terrain and passengers can enjoy the picturesque view of a thickly wooded ridge and a valley, over 2,000 ft below.

Once complete with the inscription of Matheran in the west zone, Railways' recognised heritage sites will cover all four directions of the country which began with Darjeeling in the east, Neelgiri in the south and Shimla in the north.

Besides the mountain railway and other railway stations, Maharaja Railway in Gwalior and Oakgrove School near Dehra Dun have been included in the tentative World Heritage Site list under a new category.

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