Luxury trains to slash ticket prices by 20%

Luxury trains in the country have long been plagued by poor patronage owing to prohibitive ticket prices. But this could soon change as they are set to be easier on the pocketbook by at least 20%, say railway officials. The Railway Board has directed that the tariff for luxury trains like the Maharajas’ Express and Palace on Wheels be reduced. In an order on March 1, the Board directed zonal railways to decrease their haulage charge by 50%.

Haulage charge is the tariff collected by zonal railways for transportation of the train. Senior officials say it is the biggest cost as far as these luxury tourist trains are concerned and a 50% drop will bring about a decrease in the tariff for passengers. Indian Railways runs five luxury trains including the Maharajas’ Express, Golden Chariot, Royal Rajasthan on Wheels, Deccan Odyssey and Palace on Wheels.

The move comes after deliberations between the IRCTC (Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation) and Indian Railways over the haulage charge. Officials said IRCTC had requested for a drop in the charge.

In May 2017, IRCTC had announced the ‘southern sojourn’ for the Maharajas’ Express, with an itinerary through Karaikudi, Mahabalipuram, Hampi, Goa and Trivandrum. But it was a non-starter as there were only 18 bookings on the Trivandrum-Mumbai leg and none on the return leg. Pricing, which ranged from Rs. 3.77 lakh to Rs 17.33 lakh for an eight-day, seven-night trip, was considered to be the reason for the flop show. This included food and beverages, sight-seeing and stay in five-star like facilities on the train. Usually patronized by foreigners on a visit to India, the package was targeted at high-end clients in India who have the capacity to pay for such a unique experience, said railway officials.
A recent parliamentary standing committee report stated that these luxury tourist trains had only 30% occupancy and many seats were given to railway officials on a complimentary basis to travel for free. Tourism is a key area for Indian Railways with the Railway Board chairman Ashwani Lohani asking zones to promote the brand of rail tourism on select routes in India. This comes in the aftermath of a statement by the standing committee that the Railways was not doing enough for tourism.

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