Stop Complimentary Passes for Luxury Trains: House Panel

Between 2012 and 2017, the luxury tourist trains have run with vacant seats ranging between 45 and 63 per cent of their capacity. House Panel has also directed Railways to stop the practice of providing complimentary passes on luxury trains with immediate effect and has asked to know why such a system was in place to begin with.

NEW DELHI: Complimentary passes, poor occupancy and revenue losses are ailing India’s showpiece luxury trains such as Palace on Wheels and Maharaja’s Express, a parliamentary panel report has revealed.

It has also directed Railways to stop the practice of providing complimentary passes on luxury trains with immediate effect and has asked to know why such a system was in place to begin with.

In the five years between 2012 and 2017, the luxury tourist trains — Palace on Wheels, Maharaja’s Express, Golden Chariot, Royal Rajasthan on Wheels and Deccan Odyssey — have run with vacant seats ranging between 45 and 63 per cent of their capacity. The tariff for the trains range from US $ 500 (Rs 31,600) to US $ 850 (Rs 53,000).

Terming the figures as “shocking findings”, the standing committee on Railways, headed by Trinamool Congress MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay, noted that during the same period the haulage charges levied on these trains by the Railways has been far more than the revenue some of the trains have earned. The report was tabled in Lok Sabha on Thursday.

“These trains carry the image of Railways all over the world and are considered as iconic products /services in the luxury segment of tourism in India,” the report says. The committee focused on complimentary passes, saying it made little sense to the committee. “The committee fails to understand the need to provide complimentary travel when these luxury trains have hardly been generating the revenue to meet their own working expenses,” the report says.

The policy of complimentary passes remained because of recommendations from either the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation, the Railway Board or the state tourism departments.

Except for the Maharaja’s Express, the other four trains are run as joint ventures between the Railways and the respective state tourism departments.

The report paints a sorry picture of how these trains are run and promoted by the Railways.

The total revenue earned by the five trains from 2012-13 to 2016-17 is Rs 497.31 crore with an average of Rs 99.46 crore per year. The Railways’s share has been Rs 259.52 crore of the total revenue. The revenue of Royal Rajasthan on Wheels, Deccan Odyssey and Golden Chariot never crossed mark of Rs 15 crore per year in last five years. In the case of Deccan Odyssey, the haulage charge from 2014-15 to 2016-17 was Rs 31.11 crore, which is higher than the total revenue of Rs 20.02 crore in the same period.

“At a time the tourism sector in the country is growing significantly, the committee is distressed to note such diminutive amount as revenue generation from these luxury tourist trains puts a question mark over the operation of such trains,” the report says.

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