‘Southern Splendour’ chugs off from B’lore

‘Southern Splendour,’ the special trip of the luxury train Golden Chariot, chugged off from platform six of Yeshwantpur railway station on Monday night.
The flower-decked purple train with letterings in golden hue was flagged off by the Chairman of Karnataka State Tourism and Development Corporation (KSTDC), Siraj Sheikh at 8.45 pm. The 88-seater train departed with 60 on board, including 35 passengers.

The tourists on board were quite excited waiting to enjoy the luxuries on-board the train and the breathtaking spots they would relish. Senior citizen Terece Itin and her husband from Switzerland were among them. On their maiden trip to India, they were keen on getting to know more about the country. “The train looks very nice.

As of now, everything feels pleasant. We do not know what is in store and are eagerly looking forward to the tour of temples in Tamil Nadu specified in the itinerary,” said Terence.

A Bangalore-based couple Shishir Lall and Bernadine, are making this trip because of the “wonderful experience” they had during the week-long Golden Chariot trip around Karnataka. “The train by itself has so much to offer, the ambience, unlimited food and the cross-cultural encounters with people from various nations,” Lall said.  The cost of Rs 1,05,000 per ticket will be worth every rupee, they felt.  A similar view was echoed by Renton, an advertising executive from Mumbai.

“The fact that an international journal like `Vanity Fair’ has given it a ranking among the top trains in the world made me decide to take the plunge. The decor is quite impressive,” he felt.

While the ‘Southern Splendour’ aims at showcasing the opulent side of India, passengers who walked on a red carpet to step into the train were nagged by a couple of beggars. A few cops were noticed desperately urging them to get out of sight.  

Trip details

The seven-night, eight-day all-inclusive trip will take passengers through Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala before returning to Bangalore. The St Thomas Basilica, Mahabalipuram, Auroville tour, French town, temples in Thanjavur and Madurai, Jewish Synagogue, Dutch Palace are the places that figure on the itinerary. The trip will conclude with back-water houseboat trips and sunset cruises in Kerala.

The next run will be only on October 4. Bookings can be made on http://www.goldenchariot.org. Tourism Minister G Janardhan Reddy could not make it to the inaugural. Principal Secretary, Tourism Department, K Jothiramalingam, KSRTC Managing Director, Vinay Luthra, Bangalore Divisional Railway Manager, Akhil Agrawal, Chief Commercial Manager, South Western Railway, N R Sagar were present.



Rlys to award catering contracts to best ones

The Railway Passengers Services Committee today announced to award the contracts of catering services to the best caterers for providing quality food to the passengers. After attending a high-level meeting at the East Central Railways (ECR), RPSC Chairman Derek O` Brien told newspersons here that following a number of complaints, a survey was conducted by the committee.

He admitted catering services and cleanliness were the two most challenging spheres, saying the committee would recomend to pull out the catering services from the hands of particular contractors and would award it to the best one.

He said other facilities related to cleanliness would also be taken care of.

Mr Brien asked the railway officers to travel like a common man and experience the services provided by them. A ‘Model contract’ had been made to ensure uniformity and transparency in contract management, he added.

The ECR has also taken initiatives to enhance cleanliness and 17 trains originating from the ECR had been covered under the on-board housekeeping scheme.

He said the vision, mission and targets of the railways were clear but the delivery mechanism needed to be improved.

Rly panel for menu change in trains

MUMBAI: The aroma during the great Indian train journey may never be the same again.

The Passengers’ Services Committee met in Hajipur last Monday to draft a new catering policy for long-distance trains. Among the recommendations it has made is doing away with the dals and gravy dishes and replacing them with “drier foods” that are less messy to prepare, serve and eat.

The recommendations will be put forward to the Railway Board next week and senior officials say the PSC’s suggestions are usually followed when it comes to issues affecting passengers directly. PSC members have travelled long-distance for the past few months and seen for themselves how gravy and train don’t go together.

“Both servers and passengers have to do a constant balancing act. People can stay without gravy dishes and dals for a day or two. And passengers can carry their own food if this does not suit them,” an official said.

Railway minister Mamata Banerjee had announced in her budget speech that the catering policy would be reviewed and a new one would be announced soon.

PSC insiders also told TOI that cooking in pantry cars would also be banned. “Like on flights, only heating of food should be allowed. Meals will be cooked at base kitchens and loaded airline style and heated and served,” one of them said, adding newer drier food options like noodles could be introduced.

PSC chairman Derek O’ Brien told TOI that the new policy would also look to expanding the base of private licensees to ensure that the cartel made up of only three or four vendors was busted.


Rs 1 lakh a night on Maharajas’ Express

KOLKATA: Get ready to tour India like a Maharaja provided you can pay Rs 1 lakh per night. On Saturday evening, railway minister Mamata Banerjee will flag off the Maharajas’ Express from Kolkata station — the next generation Palace on Wheels.

For the next six days and seven nights, the luxury train will move towards Delhi, stopping at Gaya, Varanasi, Bandhavgarh, Khajuraho, Gwalior and Agra.

This train is a joint venture between Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) and Cox and Kings India Ltd. The tour is being promoted as ‘Luxury travel like no other’ and not without reason. The Maharajas’ Express will have 88 passengers (a normal III AC coach packs in 72) living in suites fit for a prince. All food and drinks are complimentary.

The cheapest rate per person per day is a whopping US$ 800 for a Deluxe cabin. The next two slabs are US$ 900 and US$ 1,400. And the Presidential Suite comes for US$ 2,500. The operators are clearly eyeing foreign tourists.

“The initial runs are familiarisation trips for the tour operators. Once they are satisfied with the service, they will sell the idea to their clients. Remember, there is a three-month waiting period for the Palace on Wheels. This train will be much more luxurious. We are sure that it will be a very successful venture,” an official said.

Every cabin has large panoramic windows to allow tourists to get a feel of the country. All cabins have individual temperature control, LCD television sets, DVD players, direct dial telephones, internet and electronic safe-deposit box. There’s even live television on board.


Indian Railways to redesign website, invite EOI

The Indian Railways have decided to redesign and recast their website  in order to enhance their engagement with consumers and visitors.

According to the Railways, they not only ensure connectivity for people of India but also act as a window to those from outside who want to experience India and all that it has to offer.

The present website of the Railways attracts some 15 million hits a day and is India’s second most searched website.

The decision to redesign the site has been taken in view of the advances that have taken place in technology, both in terms of use, search engine optimisation and the influence of social networking sites across the world.

The Railways see themselves as the principal driver of tourism and travel in India and are now looking at a website that will “inform, inspire and invigorate”.

Towards this end, the Railways have invited web design agencies with experience in carrying out such work to send in expressions of interest. The final presentations in this regard will be held in Rail Bhavan on March 30, the advertisement inviting the expressions of interest said.


Southern railway to popularise smart cards

CHENNAI: In a bid to popularise Smart Cards among Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) commuters, Southern Railway is set to begin counselling passengers at railway stations, by having their personnel explain the salient features of the system to them.

 The move is aimed at increasing patronage for Smart Cards, by which tickets can be availed using the Automatic Ticket Vending Machines (ATVM) installed in suburban railway stations.

 Smart Cards were first introduced in 2008, in order to reduce long queues in front of ticket counters at the stations. The explosive growth in passenger traffic in the suburban sector led to crowding at counters and serpentine queue lengths, often exhausting passengers and leading them to miss their trains.

 “At present, only four per cent of EMU passengers are using this facility. We want to increase this number by 15 per cent in the next two years,” Divisional Railway Manager, (Chennai), S K Kulshrestha told Express. Only 7,749 of the 1.96 lakh commuters travelling by suburban trains every day possessed smart cards, he said. “As part of our drive, railway employees will have a faceto- face interaction with passengers to create awareness about the Smart Cards. In addition, we have put up huge posters about the Smart Cards,” he said.

 A modified scheme of Smart Cards for Automatic Ticket Vending Machines was inaugurated by Union Minister of State for Railways E Ahamed at the Egmore railway station in June last year.


Published in: on March 20, 2010 at 7:50 am  Comments (3)  
Tags: ,

Disabled-friendly coaches to become a reality

CHENNAI: A long-pending demand for the operation of disabled-friendly coaches may soon become a reality with the Railway Board planning to send a coach with a physicallychallenged- friendly toilet by Carriage and Wagon Works, Perumbur for the approval of Research Designs and Standards Organisation (RDSO).

 Once the RDSO gives its nod, the innovative coach will be inducted into the Indian Railways, said Praveen Kumar, Member (Mechanical), Railway Board, who was briefing journalists on the sidelines of an award function for the ISO 14001 environment management certification that Carriage & Wagon Works has received, here on Friday.

 The top official also inspected a model of a brake van with a solarpowered fan, light and mobile charger, ceramic western commodes and cushion chairs. The model is focused on augmenting basic facilities to increase the comfort level for guards in the running of goods trains.

 Addressing the gathering, Praveen Kumar said, goods handled by the Indian Railways were expected to double in number in another decade. “Our wagons will be handling goods of about 60 million tonnes in 10 years. At present, the figure stands at 30 million tonnes.

 Similarly, the number of coaches is set to be increased by 40,000 in the same period,” he added. Besides, an estimated 20,000 wagons will be renovated every year.

 Deepak Krishan, General Manager, Southern Railway commended the services of Carriage and Wagon Works. Carriage & Wagon Works has been awarded the ISO 14001 environment management system certificate for taking up several initiatives.


Golden Chariot to touch three Kerala destinations

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Golden Chariot, Karnataka’s opulent train on the lines of Rajasthan’s ‘Palace on Wheels’ and Maharashtra’s ‘Deccan Odyssey,’ will touch three major tourist destinations in Kerala as part of the three-State tourist circuit ‘Splendour of the South.’

The inaugural run of the luxury train on the seven nights/eight days tour, covering Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, will commence on March 15. The decision to extend the operations of the Golden Chariot to other States has been taken in connection with the second anniversary of the luxury train.

The Golden Chariot will be the first luxury train to chug into Kerala. The attempts of Kerala Tourism to acquire a luxury train on the lines of ‘Palace on Wheels’ had not been successful. But, official sources said the State’s inclusion in the tourism circuit of Golden Chariot would benefit Kerala’s tourism sector immensely.

As per the itinerary announced, after covering Chennai, Puducherry, Thanjavur and Madurai the train will reach Thiruvananthapuram Central at 12.30 noon on the sixth day. A city tour, visit to the beach resort of Kovalam and a dinner at Taj Green Cove resort await the tourists here. The travellers will have time for shopping in the State capital. After an overnight halt at Thiruvananthapuram Central, the train will proceed to Alappuzha the next morning. The passengers will be able to undertake a cruise in the houseboat from 9 a.m. It will be followed by a lunch in the Punnamada backwater resort. In Kochi, they can visit the Jewish Synagogue and Dutch Palace and go on a sunset cruise. The tour in Kerala will conclude with a dinner at Taj Malabar. The train will depart from Kochi at 11 p.m. to reach Bangalore the next day at 7 a.m.The train has 19 thematically designed coaches. Its 44 cabins have amenities like wi-fi, plasma TV and attached baths. The two restaurants — Nalapaka and Ruchi — have both vegetarian and non-vegetarian spreads.


Now, track your MMTS train using GPS

HYDERABAD: Waiting for an MMTS train at the station? If you are at Begumpet station, you can now know exactly how much longer you would have to wait.

The station has become the first in the country to have a state-of-the-art global positioning system (GPS) linked to LCD TVs and train information boards to help commuters see the exact position of the train scheduled to arrive.

According to divisional railway manager (DRM), Secunderabad, Ashok K Pavadia, the new system, taken up as a pilot project at Begumpet station last week, has proved to be successful.

The GPS-based online train announcement system gives audio and visual information about the MMTS train arrival at the station. The GPS tracking unit is fixed in trains, which collects information on its location through satellite and gives the exact longitude, latitude and speed of the moving train. The data so collected is sent to the central server at Chennai through GSM network using GSM/GPRS modem in the train unit.

Pavadia informed that the central server based in Chennai receives the information on the location of the moving train through the internet. The Railways has hired a dedicated public IP for the purpose from the GSM service provider.

The server computes the data received and gives the exact location of the train and time taken to reach the station, to the computer at MMTS stations connected through a LAN network. At the station, a computer is connected through the LAN network to receive the data from the server and to this computer, audio/video systems like train information boards, LCD TVs are connected.

Pavadia said that though Mumbai has a GPS system, it is not automatic as in the case of Begumpet MMTS station here. The announcement of arrival and departure of trains is made manually there, while here it is completely online. No manual work is involved, he said.

The DRM said that there are 15 stations in the division and the Begumpet station is the first one to have this facility. Similar facility will be set up next at Hi-Tec City station and then the Secunderabad station.


Winged guests protected at railway station

 The Chandigarh railway station, which will soon be converted into a world-class establishment, hardly catches the attention of train passengers.When one goes closer to the premises, he is greeted by high-pitched hubbub, which makes it distinct from other train-halting points.The station is an unlikely breeding place for hundreds of birds, thanks to Railways employees, whose protection initiatives have made the platform a safe haven for birds.“Although birds litter the platform with their droppings, Railways staff have never shown irritation. We have imposed orders that nobody should attack our winged guests,” says RK Datta, station superintendent.

Though the noise generated by birds irritates the staff, they have learnt to live with it. The department has made special arrangements to clean bird droppings regularly.

It has installed aluminium sheets underneath the already existing shed covers, initially introduced at the entrance to the station.It has been facing difficulty in maintaining the platform. “We are unable to put benches as bird droppings will render those useless. Passengers are inconvenienced due to the droppings,” says Datta.

As the station has been under renovation, a new shed with aluminium sheets will also be installed shortly.If it proves successful, it will be extended to other platforms and railway stations falling under the Ambala division. Due to the close proximity to the forest area around it, the number of birds flocking the area has increased in recent years.

The winged guests, earlier nesting at two trees near the parcel office of the station, can now be found nesting under the sheds of platforms.Almost every station has the same problem and the department plans to put a flat net below the platform roof.

This will not allow birds to sit and chirp. Months are expected to pass before this flat net plan is implemented.