The Indian Railways has sought participation from state governments, private players, and public sector undertakings to operate around 150 tourism-focused trains. Speaking to journalists, Rail Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said that this will treated as a new revenue segment for the Indian Railways.
“Traditionally, the Indian Railways eyed passenger and freight earnings. This time the focus is on developing a segment for tourism as well,” Vaishnaw said, adding that the power to price tickets for these tourist services will vest with the concessionaire that operates them.
“We have to look at this from beyond the traditional view about Railway operations such as passenger and freight. Packages of these tourist trains may include hotel accommodation, taxi fares to tourist destinations, train fares, meal charges, sightseeing arrangement, and visit to historical/heritage sites, among others,” Vaishnaw said.
An official statement said that these theme-based tourist circuit trains will be called Bharat Gaurav Trains. “The core strength of the professionals of tourism sector would be leveraged to develop/identify tourist circuits and run theme- based trains to tap the vast tourism potential of India,” the statement said.
“The service Provider would be free to decide theme like Guru Kripa trains for covering important places of Sikh culture, Ramayana trains for places connected with Lord Shri Ram among others,” the statement added.
Vaishnaw said that there has been interest from multiple state governments for running these trains. He named the Odisha state government which has expressed keenness for this service but said that most of these trains would likely be run by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC).
Passengers will have the flexibility to decide package cost based on level of services being offered. The choice of coaches will also be modified to suit the clientele, different segments like luxury or budget.
The concessionaire will be free to design/furnish interior of the coaches based on the theme. Branding and advertisement permitted both inside and outside of train. Each train is expected to have 14 to 20 coaches including 2 Guard Vans.
Attempts to run such trains have been made earlier as well but they did not yield much interest and have been operating as losses. The Maharajas' Express, a luxury tourist train owned and operated by IRCTC has been out of operations because of the Covid-19 pandemic and may not ply till December 2021-end.
In January this year, IRCTC said that it had also planned tour packages starting from Rs 22,830 per person for “Padharo Rajasthan” and Rs 24,450 per person for “Jyotirlinga & Statue of Unity” Tours. These were in line with the centre's initiative of 'Dekho Apna Desh' to promote domestic tourism.
Vaishnaw said that the past experiences of running similar train services have been taken into account in this fresh attempt at Railways tourism packages.