New Delhi: The best way to reach Araku Valley in Andhra Pradesh is to take a train from Vishakhapatnam — and it’s about to get better. Tourists on this route will be the first in the country to sit inside glass-domed coaches that will allow them to take in the spectacular views of nature along the route.
The train that runs between Vishakhapatnam and Araku will initially have two coaches with windows and roofs made of special shatter-resistant glass to provide an all-round view of the valley to travellers during the four-hour, 130-km journey. Similar services are offered by train operators in Switzerland and the Canadian Rockies.
The picturesque Araku Valley, located at an elevation of about 3,000 feet in the Eastern Ghats, is rich in thick forests and is known for its coffee plantations. An initiative of the Ministry of Tourism, the glassdomed coaches will be available by the end of March 2015 and the project could be replicated on other scenic routes, including between Baramulla and Qazigund in Kashmir Valley.
“We have no doubt that in Kashmir there would be great demand due to the high tourist footfalls in the state. In Araku, we will assess the interest it generates,” a senior government official said. The viability of the project will depend on the response of passengers, who will pay premium fares for such coaches.
The tourism ministry will pay Rs 4 crore to the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation, a unit of the Indian Railways, to provide the domestically manufactured, air-conditioned coaches. In the pilot run, the fares for these coaches are likely to be 5 per cent higher than the normal AC coach ticket. “Product innovation is essential to promoting tourism. We have to create those wow factors to attract tourists and give them a reason to explore newer places in India,” said Arjun Sharma, managing director of Le Passage to India, a travel company headquartered in New Delhi.
Andhra Pradesh ranks third in domestic tourism, having drawn more than 15 crore visitors in 2013, according to ministry data, and is next only to Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh. The state’s main attraction is the pilgrimage centre of Tirupati and lesser known parts such as the Araku Valley will need to be promoted to make initiatives such as the glass-domed train coaches successful.