Luxury Trains running way below capacity, but Railway Board isn’t giving up yet

NEW DELHI:  Five existing luxury trains are running way below capacity but Railway Minister Piyush Goyal isn’t giving up yet. The Railway Ministry has asked all states to propose luxury trains to connect important tourist destinations and told them that the Indian Railways will partner with them. Odisha is the first state to have expressed its willingness for the project.As of now, foreign tourists and non-resident Indians are the main clientele of the five existing luxury trains: ‘Palace on Wheels’ and ‘Royal Rajasthan on Wheels’ operated by the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation (RTDC); ‘Maharajas Express’ operated by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC); ‘Deccan Odyssey’ operated by the Maharashtra Government and Railways; and ‘Golden Chariot’ run by the Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC).

To make these trains affordable to domestic tourists, the fares have been cut by 50 per cent. Railway sources said day-long tour packages were being planned.“We wrote to all states to partner with railways for running luxury trains and Odisha has shown interest. We will hold talks with the state government to take it ahead,” said a senior railway officer.A trip on the Maharajas Express does not come cheap. An 8-nights 7-days package costs Rs.4.6 lakh for a deluxe cabin, Rs.6.6 lakh for a junior suite, Rs.9.2 lakh for a suite and Rs.16 lakh for the presidential suite. The other four trains are comparatively cheaper.

The Railway Ministry, expecting a favourable response from some states, has asked the Chennai-based Integral Coach Factory to prepare a proposal for manufacturing luxury coaches. The cost of one coach is estimated at Rs.5-6 crore.

Last year, an effort by the railways to run these trains on other routes during the off-season (August-September) failed to take off.The total revenue earned by the five luxury trains from 2012-13 to 2016-17 was Rs.497.31 crore, with an average of Rs.99.46 crore per year. Of the total revenue, the railways share was Rs 259.52 crore.