While the long-cherished dream of getting heritage status to the Nilgiris Mountain Railway may not be too far away, the railways are now more concerned about how to make the train more viable.
According to highly placed railway sources, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation has accepted in principle the application from Southern Railways to accord the heritage status, which will come by July-end.
A two-member team headed by Robert Lee, UNESCO consultant, had visited NMR, between Mettupalayam and Udhagamandalam, a few months ago and said this was a fit to be declared a world heritage, the sources added.
However, Southern Railways, particularly, Palakkad division, was concerned about how to make the NMR viable as it is currently incurring a loss of about Rs 4.20 crore annually, they said.
Even though, the heritage status would bring a financial assistance of Rs 50 lakh annually for maintenance, railways will have to pump in more funds for attracting tourists by way of rebuilding coaches, the sources added.
The major chunk of expenses to maintain the NMR will go towards salary for 365 employees on the section (covering 46 km) and establishment costs. According to them, the earning was Rs 38 lakh to Rs 40 lakh annually only by way of passenger revenue.