If everything goes as expected, visitors would soon be able to marvel at the scenic backwaters of Kochi while traveling over India’s longest rail bridge. The Indian Railways is working laboriously to run a tourist train across the Vembanad Bridge. Stretching for over 4.2 km, the bridge connects the Vallarpadam International Container Transshipment Terminal with Edapally.
The railways is actively considering the proposal. For the same reason, a preliminary meeting was also held. The viability of the project was discussed with the Members of the railways, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), Cochin Port Trust and tour operators present in the meeting. The officials informed that the tour operators responded very positively and supported the proposal.
Steam heritage trains will enable the passengers to traverse the circuit from Vallarpadam terminal to Edapally. With the tourist train hitting the rails, it will emerge as a new tourist attraction for the travelers. Tourists can now cherish something reviving as compared to the rather casual views at the Fort Kochi, Tripunithura Hill Palace, Mattancherry, Marine Drive and Folklore Museum. The only addition to the tourism map of the city was the laser show – an initiative by the Greater Cochin Development Authority.
Though there were many other plans lined up with the city authorities, including an aquarium, on the anvil, but nothing succeeded for one or the other reason. According to the opinions of the expert in the tourism field, Kerala will lag behind if it doesn’t come up with a new and interesting approach.
The railways has made the effort to begin the tourism circuit through the seven years old bridge which was built at a cost of INR 450 crores. Keeping the passengers of cruise ships in mind, a special tourist train will also run with the communal support of the IRCTC and Cochin Port Trust.
However, domestic tourists can avail the benefits of the special train service when there will be no inflow of foreign travelers to the city. The tour operators are planning to include the Vallarpadam Rail journey in the existing Kochi tour package.
Many hill stations across India still operate several toy train services which date back to the erstwhile British era. The Vembanad Bridge is one of the railway wonders after independence. But sadly, its tourism potentials were never tapped. Unfortunately, the bridge is now a hub for anti-social elements.
According to the proposal, foreign tourists will be charged INR 600 per head.
163-year-old steam engine
The age-old EIR 21 steam engine was brought to life by the Perambur Loco Works in Chennai in 2010. Built in the UK in 1855, the loco is the oldest steam engine in operation in India. Post providing the services to the Indian Railways for more than fifty-five years, the loco was kept safe in different rail museums across the country. After a long time, the 163 years old steam engine was operational from Chennai to Avadi in 2010. This was done after the possession of the loco which was preserved in Kolkata, went into the hands of the Perambur Loco Works.
Currently, Madurai Division is having the possession of the steam engine and it will be passed on to the hands of Thiruvananthapuram Division. Thereafter, the loco will be brought to Kochi. The exclusive heritage steam engine will be featuring only a single coach.
Considering Vistadome coaches
The authorities are eyeing latest and stylish Vistadome coaches. The coaches for the proposed service are presently running in Arakku Valley hill station in Andhra Pradesh and on Konkan stretch. The AC coaches can accommodate 40 passengers, come equipped with 360-degree rotatable seats and in addition to that, offer panoramic views of the surroundings.
For offering an aesthetic experience, these coaches would be great attractions for the tourists traveling on the heritage train via Vembanad Bridge.
In the meantime, a request has been given to the railway authorities by Kerala to provide Vistadome coaches to trains running on the Ernakulam-Thiruvananthapuram (via Alappuzha), Shornur-Nilambur and Kollam-Sengottai routes.
The irresistible pulchritude of Kochi backwaters
The awe-inspiring rail journey will allow the travelers to soak-in the mesmerizing charm of Kochi backwaters. Adorned with Chinese Fishing Nets and flecked with Mangroves, the backwaters will be in full display.
While traveling through the Vembanad Bridge, one can observe the tranquility and calmness of life on small islands on one side while the glitter and shimmer on the other. Marveling at the splendid Goshree bridges is an added plus. The breathtaking views of the tower of the popular Vallarpadam church cast a spell on the onlookers.
Starting from Edapally, the suggested tourist train runs parallel to the Thrissur-Ernakulam railway line for a while. Thereafter, it deviates from Vaduthala to pass through Mulavukadu and Idayakkara islands prior to entering the bridge to reach its destination Vallarpadam. More than 80 percent of the 4.62 km long bridge is above water.
Recognition for the bridge
- CNBC TV18 Essar Steel Infrastructure Excellence Award, 2011
- D&B Axis Bank Infra Best Railway Project Award, 2011
- Indian Concrete Institute’s the Best Pre-structuring Structure of the Year Award, 2010
Fact file on Vembanad Bridge
- Rail Vikas Nigam Limited took 27 months to complete the 4.62 km long bridge.
- The Vembanad Bridge is the longest rail bridge in India.
- The construction began in June, 2007, completed in March 2010 and bridge was inaugurated in February 2011.
- The construction contractor of the bridge was Afcons Infrastructure Limited.
- The structure has 133 pile foundations and 134 spans.
Longest bridges in India
- Vembanad Bridge, Kerala – 4.62 km
- Nehru Setu, Bihar – 3.05 km
- Godavari Arch Bridge, AP – 2.7 km
- Mahanadhi Rail Bridge – 2.1 km
- Pamban Bridge, TN – 2.065 km
- Shatavari Bridge, Karnataka – 2.06 km
- Zuari Bridge, Goa – 1.3 km
So, if you’re planning to visit Kerala soon, get ready to be amused by this wonderful surprise.
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