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Pradeep Pattanayak

What if you are traveling on a train without a ticket and caught by a travelling ticket examiner (TTE )?

Punishment is inevitable.

However, there is a train in India on which you can travel without ticket, and with no fear of TTE and punishment.

Yes, you heard it right.

The Bhakra Nangal train has been providing free ride to its passengers, not for one or two years but for the past 73 years.

The train, frequently used by commuters, mostly students, to travel between Nangal and Bhakra, runs through the borders of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh.

Commissioned into service in 1948, the train covers a distance of 13 kilometres, chugging through the Shiwalik hills. Despite the fact that it consumes 18 to 20 litres of diesel per hour, the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) has decided to run it free to attract more tourists to the Bhakra-Nangal dam site.

Every day, around 300 passengers from nearby 25 villages travel on this train free of cost. It is the students who are largely benefitted because of the free ride.

The BBMB had once contemplated stopping the free ride owing to financial issues, but chosen to keep the tradition going because the heritage train’s importance was much more than being a source of income.

Notably, the construction of the Bhakra-Nangal dam started in 1948. Then there was no facility to transport construction materials and labourers between Bhakra and Nangal.

It was then decided to lay railway tracks. The train started rolling in 1948.

The train was initially running with steam engines. In 1953, they were replaced with three modern American engines. The special train is still running with its 60-year-old engine.

The train is also unique because of its coaches. While they are made in Karachi, the benches are wooden, giving commuters a colonial feel.

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