Agra, Feb 26 (IANS) At last tourists from Agra will now be able to take a train to Khajuraho, the historic heritage city in Madhya Pradesh.
According to the new railway budget, presented Friday by Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, the daily Udaipur-Gwalior Express is being extended to Khajuraho, bringing cheer to the tourism industry in the city of the Taj.
The demand for a train to Khajuraho had been hanging fire for the past three years after a new rail track had been laid between Jhansi and the town famed for its historic temples with erotic sculptures that draws millions of tourists annually.
“The tourists from Agra will reach Khajuraho in the evening, which means they will have to spend the night there. Perhaps this will be good for the local hotel industry,” says Vishal, a photography shop owner with business links in Khajuraho.
The local tourism industry in Agra is also excited about the announcement to start a Shatabdi Express between Jaipur and Agra.
Tourism industry leader Rajiv Tiwari and Rakesh Chauhan, president of the Agra Hotels and Restaurants Association, said the new express train “would reduce dependence on road transport and indirectly bring down the air pollution level.”
“But, to be able to help Agra hotels, the train should reach Agra only by evening so that tourists spend the night here. Otherwise the facility could prove detrimental to Agra’s interests just like what is happening right now in relation to tourist flow from Delhi. All of them return to Delhi in the evening. This does not help Agra’s interests,” they said
A new weekly train between Mathura and Kolkata via Agra would provide a great boost to domestic tourism, say the industry leaders.
Two trains connecting Ajmer with the eastern states via Agra will also be helpful for the local tourism industry, says Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society.
“It is indeed a great gesture to provide several new trains to connect pilgrim centres in north India from Haridwar, Amritsar, Mathura-Vrindavan, Ajmer to Dwaraka in the west via Agra. The pilgrim centres of Lord Krishna’s braj mandal needed to be connected with the eastern states as a large number of Sri Krishna devotees come from that area,” Sharma added.
Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s birthplace Bateshwar will also be connected with a rail link during the coming year.
The former Vajpayee government had announced a link between Bateshwar in Bar sub-division of Agra, and Etawah. But the project was virtually shelved for want of resources.
Banerjee has also announced an international level training centre for railway employees in the Taj city.
In another development, the Mughal emperor Akbar’s deserted capital Fatehpur Sikri will now be transformed into a model station with heritage features.
Railway officials said the budget also proposes developing the Agra Cantonment railway station with help from UP Tourism department.
Also, a new track, the third one, between Jhansi and Delhi will help speed up train movement, much to the advantage of shoe exporters and handicrafts manufacturers who have their industry hub in the area.
“Between Tundla and Yamuna Bridge station we will soon have a double line and a daily new express train between Jhansi and Delhi, called Chandel Express, will surely help Agra tourists either go to Khajuraho or return to Delhi,” says Rajiv Gupta, representative of the Indian Industries Association.
With so many new trains touching or originating from the Taj city, tourism is all set to get a major boost, hopes financial adviser Sudhir Gupta.
“I am keeping my fingers crossed hoping for some more benefits in the coming union budget for Agra, which has long been at the receiving end,” Gupta added.