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‘Shakuntala’ can boost Vidarbha’s economy

   By Vijay Darda | 27-05-2022

Opportunity to revive the 108-year-old railway line

The revival of the Shakuntala Express, which proved to be important for the people of Vidarbha including those from Yavatmal, hangs in the balance. Efforts were made four years ago to develop this historic railway built 108 years ago by converting it into a broad gauge line.

In 2017-18, this work was approved and mentioned in the Pink Book of Central Railway. But the project got stalled due to a lack of political will. Even today this old railway line is present in the same place.

This vital train that links the villages and towns in the tribal-dominated region can be revived if the state and central government think seriously. Shakuntala Express line can give impetus to the development of Vidarbha, particularly the tribal-dominated Yavatmal district where the development activities can get a boost.

The construction of Shakuntala Rail line was taken up by Killick Nixon Company established in 1857. After completing the survey in 1909, the laying of track, construction of culverts, etc., was carried out in the next four years and the last trial of this line was done on December 29, 1913.

The first freight train ran on the 113-km narrow-gauge Yavatmal-Murtijapur route on January 1, 1913. This train used to cover a distance of 113 km in four hours. A year later, on January 1, 1914, passenger train started on this route. This railway of Vidarbha later became famous in the world.

This train was started by the British to carry the cotton bales of Vidarbha and Yavatmal to Manchester. The cotton from here used to be dispatched to Mumbai by this train. From there it was sent to England by ship. Initially, the train had steam locomotives. In 1994, they were replaced by diesel locomotives. In 2016, after this train was freed from ownership of the British company, it stopped plying. There is a demand by the citizens of Yavatmal to convert this route into broad gauge and start train services again.

Financial provision was expected in 2018-19

Efforts were started to develop this railway route four years ago. Central Railway also gave immediate recognition to the development of this route after the survey. The central and state government had shown readiness to contribute financially to this project. Since no financial provision for this project was made in the budget for 2018-19, the proposal remained pending. After that, no one paid attention to this important issue due to the coronavirus epidemic.

Shakuntala Express is the historical heritage of Yavatmal and Vidarbha. The people of Vidarbha wish this train should be revived for the development of this tribal-dominated region. For the last few years, continuous efforts are being made for this purpose. The people of Vidarbha including Yavatmal will stand to gain immensely if this route is converted into broad gauge. Besides, the economy of this region will also acquire traction. Therefore, the state and central governments should come forward to revive this train.

– Vijay Darda, Chairman of  Editorial Board of  Lokmat Media and former member of Rajya Sabha


Revival of this route was part of railway plan. An amount of `2147 crore was expected to be spent on gauge conversion projects like Achalpur-Murtijapur (76.06 km), Murtijapur-Yavatmal (111.77 km), and Pulgaon-Arvi (35.20 km). The central and state governments had shown readiness to bear their share of funds for this project.

– Amol Yedge, District Collector, Yavatmal


Shakuntala train that runs on narrow gauge has been parked at railway yard.

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