Indian Railways is in the process for boosting revenue and cash in on the heritage of the Kalka-Shimla route. Being Indian Railways’ first ever hop-on-hop-off service, the line is also likely to begin the tourist season this year. According to senior officials, the heritage Kalka-Shimla train route will be completely revamped.
NEW DELHI: Vistamdome, Europe-like coaches, Hop-on-hop-off service and much more – Indian Railways has made its Kalka-Shimla toy train much more attractive for tourists! The heritage Kalka-Shimla toy train route will be completely revamped. The route, which has 102 tunnels, is now getting a Vistadome coach that offers panoramic views, an infotainment system, a hop-on hop off option, and a faster average speed. The Kalka-Shimla rail is a UNESCO World heritage line of the Indian Railways. The need for this revamp has arisen from the fact that the route is incurring an annual loss of Rs 70 crore. Officials quoted in an HT report said that the changes and renovation of the heritage line could help them get an annual turnover of Rs 500 crore, which would mean a profit of about Rs 350 crore! Here are 5 cool facts about the newly revamped Kalka-Shimla line:
1. Vistadome coaches for a unique experience
The new transparent Vistadome coaches will run commercially in the next 10 days. The transparent glass roof of the train allows tourists to experience the snow and rain unhindered, which could attract many more tourists. The upgrade of the first Vistadome coach has been done locally, with an investment of Rs 10 lakh. With a glass roof and large windows that offer a panoramic view of the hills, officials expect the Vistadome coach to be in high demand during the winter season. The first coach will be available for booking within 10 days and they are yet to take a final call on the fare. The fare for Vistadome coach is likely to be around Rs 700 per passenger. Currently, Indian Railways runs six trains on the 94km route, and the fare starts at as low as Rs 25 for general class and goes up to Rs 665 for first class.
2. Revenue generation through the line:
DC Sharma, Divisional Railway Manager, Ambala was quoted in a PTI report saying that they are preserving everything that has heritage value. The route has the potential to generate Rs 500 crore revenue annually. Reportedly, Indian Railways is spending Rs 80 crore on the route but it is only generating it a revenue of Rs 7 crores. Sharma added that on December 5, he will hold a meeting with members of Indian tour operators association to find ways to convince them to include the heritage line in its packages, specially for foreigners.
3. Making the route tourist-friendly:
Indian Railways wants to give the coaches for charter, even provide catering if needed. There are plans to talk to hotels, banks, corporates to use these coaches for their retreats. Indian Railways is also beautifying the route and has planted over 40,000 trees to ensure that as the train leaves Kalka, tourists can see greenery all around. The charters cost around Rs 20,000-40,000 per trip depending on the coach availed, officials said, but have found few takers. However they want to promote the route for groups – families or professionals.
4. Faster speed to reduce the time of journeys
For engaging more tourists, Indian Railway is also set to bump the speed of trains running on the section, from the present 25kmph to 35kmph, to reduce the journey between Kalka-Shimla to less than five hours. A trial run will also conducted this week.
5. Indian Railway’s first ever hop-on hop-off service
As an additional perk, this is Indian Railways’ first ever hop-on hop-off service which is likely to start the tourist season on the Kalka-Shimla route. This special service allows tourists to travel without booking tickets months in advance. The service was introduced this a month ago, but it will actually kick off in the coming tourist season between December 15 and February 15 when the tickets will be bought in large numbers. Such trains and routes are in high demand all across the world and are a great source of revenue.