In the last instalment of his interesting travelogue of extreme railway journeys across the world’s toughest terrains, presenter Chris Tarrant takes a trip through India on the Konkan line.
The Konkan railway runs down the west coast of India, connecting the port cities of Mumbai and Mangalore. While the British built 40,000 miles of track across the vast sub-continent, they stayed clear of this narrow, boggy strip of land as it was deemed too treacherous and difficult to build on. As a result, western India remained undeveloped, until a brave Indian engineer took on the daunting task. Known as ‘The People’s Railway’, the line opened in January 1998, finally connecting the remote villages along the route to the outside world.
Chris starts his journey at dawn in Mumbai, India’s financial capital and home to Bollywood. The ‘Mandovi Express’ is the first of many trains he catches along the 472miles of track running through the states of Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka. As he travels through the stunningly lush scenery, Chris is struck by the engineering challenges that this extreme environment must have presented.
To keep the line straight, 92 tunnels and 2,000 bridges had to be built in one of the wettest areas of the country. The monsoon rain continues to create havoc. In the last 10 years there have been two fatal accidents due to landslides derailing the trains. Chris joins the monsoon team who patrol the line daily to ensure that it is free from obstructions. He is amazed at the work and commitment going on behind the scenes to prevent further incidents. However, on ‘The People’s Railway’ it is his fellow passengers that provide the real enjoyment on the journey. Chris throws himself into his trip, inspired not only by the engineering miracle of the railway but by the community it serves.