The Visakhapatnam-Araku single railway line passing through the Eastern Ghats and deep forest cover seems to be the lifeline of the tourism department in Visakhapatnam division. Tourists and the tourism department officials alike want the railways to reopen of the passenger train services between Vizag and Araku at the earliest.
Though the tourism department reopened its hotels, restaurants and resorts from Monday (June 8) with standard operating procedures (SOPs) under the Covid-19 Unlock 1.0 protocol, the department insists it will take some time for tourism in the division to bounce back to what it was pre-lockdown, as the Visakhapatnam-Araku train services on the Kottavalasa-Kirandul railway line by the railways have not resumed.
Even though the railways wanted to resume the train movement, it may be better for the railway line to open later as it is the monsoon season and the line is often blocked by boulders falling from the hills. “On Monday also, restoration works are going on to unblock the railway line between Chimidipalli and Borra Caves, where huge boulders fell and blocked the tracks on Saturday last week,” a senior railway official said.
Nearly 70 per cent of the revenue generated from by the tourism department’s Visakhapatnam division, which covers Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam districts, is from the tourism services at Araku and Borra Caves. The train journey through the dense forest and valleys to reach Araku is a major tourist attraction in itself.
The tourism department’s Visakhapatnam divisional manager TG Prasada Reddy said that they have incurred a loss of nearly Rs 10 crore during the lockdown. “Nearly Rs 7 crore of the loss is from Araku and Borra Caves,” he saids. “The railway line for Araku is the tourism sector’s lifeline. We hope that the railway services will be restarted soon. Then we will be able to get some relief,” Reddy said.