Shakuntala Railway, the only privately-owned railway line in India offering passenger services, may soon be a part of history. Then Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has cleared a proposal to take over the narrow gauge line and convert it into broad gauge at an estimated cost of Rs 1,500 crore.
Shakuntala Railway covers a 188-km stretch from Yavatmal to Achalpur in Amaravati district of Maharashtra. The Central Province Railway Company (CPRC), or the Shakuntala Railway, was founded in 1910 by Killick Nixon, a British firm, mainly to transport cotton from the area.
The route was used to ferry cotton from Vidarbha for exporting. But even after the nationalisation of other private sector railway lines, Shakuntala Railway continued to be privately-owned.
According to the contract with CPRC, if the Indian government fails to acquire the line in 2016, it will only be able to acquire it a decade later.
The Indian Railways pays an annual usage fee of Rs 2-3 crore for running two passenger trains and few goods trains on these tracks to CPRC.