India’s first solar energy-driven miniature train was launched by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan at Veli tourist village in Thiruvananthapuram. This endeavour is part of a string of projects worth Rs. 60 crore to elevate the facilities at the tourist village to international standards. The Chief Minister, via video conference, also inaugurated the Urban Park and swimming pool at the eco-friendly tourist village, located on the outskirts of the state capital where the Veli Lake meets the Arabian Sea.
The Rs. 10 crore eco-friendly solar-powered 2.5 km miniature railway project is the first of its kind in the country. “Artificial steam spouted by the engine of the train, modelled after the vintage steam locomotive, will stir nostalgic feelings. The station house is also designed in a traditional style. The surplus energy generated by the system will be routed to the KSEB’s grid,” the Chief Minister said. He added that a tourist facilitation centre, Convention Centre and Art Cafe will be opened at Veli soon. The Convention Centre will have an art gallery, a digital display facility to feature major tourism and cultural centres of the state and an open-air theatre. These world-class facilities will impart a new look to Veli, he said.
Kerala Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran, who presided over the function, said that the government had allotted around Rs. 120 crore for developing and enhancing infrastructure facilities in tourism destinations in one year alone. "Of these, administrative sanction has been given to Rs. 60 crore worth of projects for Veli itself. This showed the government’s determination to transform Veli into one of the most attractive destinations for domestic tourists. Among the projects for Veli, Rs. 20 crore worth of work has been completed, and other schemes are progressing. The Tourist Facilitation Centre will be opened in January next year," the Minister said.
The Miniature Rail has all the features of a fully-equipped rail system including a tunnel, a station and ticket office. The train has three bogies that can accommodate around 45 persons on board at a time. KTDC Chairman M. Vijayakumar, Tourism Secretary Rani George and Director P. Bala Kiran, IAS, were among the dignitaries present on the occasion.