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Indian Railway plan to roll 200 heritage railway saloons on tracks

Monday - November 4, 2019 11:47 am , Category : TRAVEL


WTN- In a new initiative to woo tourists and raise revenue, Indian Railways has planned to refurbish its 200 heritage saloons and use them as rakes for 10 luxury tourist trains. Today many of these saloons, dating back to the British Raj, are used for inspection by higher officials of the department.

Now, keeping aside some number of saloons (special coaches) for officials and their official duty, the rest would be converted into tourist facilities. There are total 336 saloons with the railways. Sixty-two of them are air-conditioned. Recently, rail minister Piyush Goyal had expressed his displeasure at the saloons being misused by railway officials and had also called the practice of bringing them into personal use by the officials as an ‘imperialist’ mentality.

Consequently, he had asked the railway zones to draw a plan to bring these saloons to public use. Now, if these 200 saloons are brought to use for high-end tourists, it will mean handsome revenue for the railways as each saloon costs Rs 2 lakh to hire. Each saloon consists of two bedrooms, one lounge, pantry, toilet and kitchen. One can stay in it for a maximum duration of five days in one go. This facility can be a big draw for foreign travelers whose special experience with Indian rail is limited to a couple of facilitated specialty trains like Palace on Wheels or Maharaja Express. These trains cover only small circuits and vast parts of India thus remain unvisited.

If saloons can be attached to long-distant express trains or more special trains can be launched with these saloons, equitably distributing their run in under-served regions, it can be a big opportunity to showcase Indian culture, history and natural assets to a larger audience. Railways has a big opportunity to bring back the old world colonial charm of rail travel, an experience unique to the western traveler because not only the Indian railway network is one of the largest in the world, it also has a rich history and legacy, many of which haven’t changed since the 19th century.

India also runs the longest trains, that too of most varied configurations and specificities, carrying the largest number of people anywhere in the world. Railways badly needs revenues and this new venture can be a big source of money for it. But it must also be countered that most of the saloons are in bad shape and refurbishing them to match global standards needs time, money and proficiency. It has to be seen if railways can raise its standard of professionalism and commitment to get them on tracks and sustain the project with the right planning and management.

Indian railways has a humungous workforce and logistics which can be brought to good use, but vested interests, political manipulations, poor planning and corruption often mar the possibilities, which need to be closely monitored and checked so that this new and well-thought project doesn’t turn into a damp squib. - Window To News