Theme-Based Tourist Train Policy Ready To Roll – Swarajya

While the public transporter is relooking at the private train operation project to make it a feasible model, the Railways is, meanwhile, going ahead with the theme-based train scheme.
Firming up a policy to promote rail-based tourism, Indian Railways is likely to launch the scheme to lease out coaches to interested parties to run them as theme-based cultural, religious and other tourist circuit trains shortly.
The Railways’ move to privatise part of its train running operations earlier this year by inviting bids from private players for 109 railway passenger routes failed to generate interest with bidders citing a number of problems including lack of route flexibility and the absence of a rail regulator.
While the public transporter is relooking at the private train operation project to make it a feasible model, the Railways is, meanwhile, going ahead with the theme-based train scheme.
Aiming at going beyond Ramayan and Buddhist circuits, the Railways is targeting the state governments and private players in equal measure to start the tourist trains across the country.
Besides the Ramayana and Buddhist circuits, the IRCTC and a few state tourism departments are also running some tourist services like Maharaja and the Palace on Wheels trains.
However, the earnings from these tourist trains are not more than Rs 200 crore a year. “While the passenger revenue is pegged at about Rs 51,000 crore, the earnings from tourist trains is not very significant,” said a senior Railway Ministry official involved in finalising the theme-based trains.
The official said the theme-based trains have good potential in the country as our domestic tourism is looking up now.
Whether by state governments or private tour operators, coaches would be leased for a minimum period of five years and will be extendable till the codal life of coaches.
Locomotives and train drivers would be provided by the Railways and it will levy haulage charges, nominal stabling charges, and lease charges.
Interested parties would decide on the business model including tariff and itinerary. Branding of trains and advertising inside coaches are also permitted as part of the business model of the private players.
The steps are expected to tap the potential of the tourism sector and to leverage the core strengths of the professionals of the tourism sector in tourism activities like marketing, hospitality, integration of services, reach with customer base, expertise in identification of tourist circuits.
The coach can be refurbished by the interested parties to attract customers.
Arun Kumar Das is a senior journalist covering railways. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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