Karnataka

IRCTC takes over operations of Golden Chariot

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Thinking of lowering fares, says IRCTC

The reins of the Golden Chariot, South India’s only luxury train, have officially been taken over by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC).

The Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC) signed an agreement with the IRCTC in New Delhi on Tuesday, according to which the tourism corporation will take over the marketing and operations of the luxury train.

The Golden Chariot, which completed a decade’s run across Karnataka and other Southern States, was not operated in the last season (October to March) as the train was being refurbished and a new agency was being finalised.

This year, after the new BJP government took office, it decided to temporarily suspend operations in the wake of losses amounting to ₹41 crore.

The train’s occupancy rate was less than half on an average. In addition, until recently, Railways had refused to come on board a revenue-sharing model, both of which had left the train’s finances bleeding.

KSTDC Managing Director Kumar Pushkar told The Hindu that the State tourism corporation will still be involved.

“The agreement is still between the Railways and KSTDC. So, payments will be made by the KSTDC. Major replacements and repairs and capital expenditure will also be ours. We will also be involved in drafting the itineraries,” he said.

Running a luxury train is more challenging than running a five-star hotel, as one has to provide a similar experience in a limited space, he explained.

Karnataka : Bengaluru : 19/11/2019 Union Minister Mr Suresh C Angadi and Karnataka Minister Mr C T Ravi witnesses during the "Agreement Sighning Ceremony for Marketing and operations of Golden Chariot luxury Train between IRCTC And KSTDC" in New Delh on November 19th

Karnataka : Bengaluru : 19/11/2019 Union Minister Mr Suresh C Angadi and Karnataka Minister Mr C T Ravi witnesses during the "Agreement Sighning Ceremony for Marketing and operations of Golden Chariot luxury Train between IRCTC And KSTDC" in New Delh on November 19th   | Photo Credit: Hnadout E Mail

The KSTDC had earlier signed an agreement with a service provider who was in charge of the on- and off-board hospitality.

“That was not working out. We called for new tenders to partner with an agency with good marketing across the world, in the absence of which a train such as this, placed in the luxury segment, cannot do well. That was not successful. IRCTC has prior experience of running a luxury train, the Maharaja Express, which will prove beneficial,” said Mr. Pushkar.

The State tourism board will also work towards bringing in local experiences to the itineraries. The train has already undergone refurbishments after its 10-year run.

Above all, it is the occupancy rates that the government is looking to improve. The Golden Chariot’s 10 year average occupancy rate has been a meagre 34%, which, along with the huge haulage charges paid to the Railways, were major causes for making it a financial drain.

“We are hoping to bring up the occupancy rates to 50% to 55% in the first two to three years. We want to jointly ensure more utilisation and profit,” said Mr. Pushkar.

Lower fares, Karnataka tours

Among the changes one can expect now that the IRCTC is on board is a change in tours, and possibly the prices. While the KSTDC said pricing was up to the IRCTC, Mahendra Pratap Mall, CMD, IRTCT, told The Hindu that they were contemplating lowering the tariffs of the Golden Chariot. “We are thinking of reducing the fares, but we will not compromise on the quality,” he said.

The 2018-19 season tariffs ranged from ₹3.85 lakh to ₹6.8 lakh for foreign passport holders and between ₹2.45 lakh to ₹3.78 lakh for Indian nationals.

The IRCTC and KSTDC are targetting first operations of the train during February-March until April, but only the Karnataka-Goa circuit may be run to begin with.

Earlier, two tours were being run: Pride of South (Bengaluru, Kabini, Mysuru, Hassan, Hampi, Badami, and Goa), and Southern Splendour (Bengaluru, Chennai, Mahabalipuram, Puducherry, Thanjavur, Madurai, Thiruvananthapuram, Kovalam, and Kochi).

Mr. Pushkar said Vijayapura could be added to the Pride of South tour, which is likely to be renames as Pride of Karnataka.

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Printable version | Dec 12, 2019 11:04:55 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/irctc-takes-over-operations-of-golden-chariot/article30018480.ece

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