Hiring the steam loco-hauled heritage train of the Nilgiri Mountain Railways (NMR) has been made affordable, thanks to the Ministry of Railways that has de-centralised decision-making on tariff structure to promote tourism in Hill Railways.
The Heritage Steam Voyage summer weekend special train which is scheduled to commence operations between Mettupalayam and Coonoor on Saturday will be available for low-cost chartering on weekdays. Tourist groups can hire the three-coach train — two first class and one second class – from Mettupalayam to Coonoor or even Ooty, a senior railway official told The Hindu on Friday.
Quoting a Railway Board circular, the official said in a bid to promote tourism on Hill Railways and enhance the image of the railways, it had been decided to authorise officials at the divisional level to decide the rates for tourist charter in the Darjeeling Hill Railways, Kalka-Shimla Railways, Nilgiri Mountain Railways, Kangra Valley Railways and Neral-Matheran Railways.
Last week, a high-level committee comprising officials of the Southern Railway and Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation, took a decision to slash the rates of charter.
“The cost of hiring the full train operated by NMR was cut to ₹5 lakh recently. Now, we have slashed it to ₹3 lakh. This rate reduction is expected to go a long way in promoting tourism,” the official said.
The Heritage Steam Voyage special train, with a capacity of about 130 passengers, would comprise the fully refurbished original wooden coaches of the NMR. To make the journey pleasant and memorable, passengers will be presented with a welcome kit and a souvenir and served refreshments on board.