Sunday, Jul 03, 2022

Passengers On This Train Have Been Travelling Free Of Cost For The Past 73 Years

The main intention behind this train is not to generate revenue but to represent the region's heritage

Representative image: The Bhakra-Nangal train continues to be a one-of-a-kind train in India
Representative image: The Bhakra-Nangal train continues to be a one-of-a-kind train in India Wikimedia Commons

Trains are one of the best and most economical ways to crisscross the country. But, you would be surprised to know that one particular train has continued to provide free rides to its passengers for the past 73 years. 

This train is none other than the Bhakra-Nangal train, which runs along Punjab's and Himachal Pradesh’s borders. It travels between Bhakra and Nangal, and forms the lifeline of 25 villages and around 300 passengers who use it for daily commute. The 13-kilometre journey mainly benefits students, schoolchildren, and labourers from different spheres of work.

The Bhakra-Nangal rail route was finished in 1948. It was intended to transport local residents and workers who were constructing the Bhakra-Nangal dam—the world's highest straight-gravity dam, whose construction was finally completed in 1963.

The train initially ran on steam. Then, in 1953, three new engines were imported from America in a bid to modernise the route. Despite subsequent technological advancements and better-developed engines, the train still uses the 60-year-old model in an effort to sustain its antique nature. All this despite the fact that the engine consumes around 18 to 20 litres of diesel per hour. The train's coaches were made in Karachi with colonial-era wooden benches. According to media reports, the train departs from Nangal Railway Station at 7:05 am and reaches Bhakra at 8:20 am. The same day, it again departs from Nangal at 3:05 pm and arrives at Bhakra at 4:20 PM.

The Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB), which runs the train, had once thought of ending the free service in 2011 due to the costs involved. However, it ultimately decided against the move as it realised that the train represented things far more important than just a source of revenue—namely, the region's history, culture and heritage. It's the reason why it still operates the train in the same fashion, in the hope that the inhabitants, especially the younger generation, will want to learn more about this region and all that went into the making of the iconic dam. Indeed, it remains a most noble initiative.