MUMBAI: Imagine travelling across the states for ten days, for just Rs 500 a day, all expenses included. With airfares and private travel packages
still coming at a premium, the Bharat Darshan special tourist train run by Indian Railways has become a huge hit with domestic tourists.
Better known as the common man’s ‘Palace On Wheels’, the Bharat Darshan trains offer all-inclusive trips to different parts of the country. The trip is managed from start to finish, including ground stay at tourist spots, by the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), an autonomous body under the Indian Railways.
Ironically, the train had few takers although it was introduced way back in 2004 and was being managed by a private tourist firm. Now that the contract with the private firm is over, IRCTC has been running the Bharat Darshan special service from December 2008 with considerable success.
IRCTC officials on Wednesday said the Bharat Darshan tours are reporting 100% occupancy as compared to around half earlier.” Every advertisement or announcement gets around 1500 queries. We run around two tours a month now as compared to just one every two months earlier,’’ said Bella Meena, additional general manager of IRCTC, Mumbai.
Even though the tours are highly subsidised, IRCTC officials said that they make a 5% profit per trip. IRCTC owns three trains, one of which is with the IRCTC, Mumbai. Attempts are on to get another one. “If we get an airconditioned (ac) train, it will add more value to the offer,’’ she added.
Meena said Bharat Darshan offers an average Mumbaikar a chance to realise his travel dreams by hopping onto this train which traverses through some of the best known tourist spots in the country. For instance the train to North India covers the magnificent Taj, the historic Jallianwala Bagh, freezing Himachal heights and explores cultures of these places at a very economical rate,’’ said Meena.
IRCTC has also inducted fresh recruits from hotel management colleges to improve service quality. Meena said the tour package is roughly pegged at Rs 5780/-per person on an average across directions, which works out to a little above Rs 500/-per day.
The tour which is on a second-class sleeper includes all meals, local sightseeing of popular places at the tourist destination by semi-luxury tourist buses. It also includes travel and security arrangements. Surprisingly, the guards on the train are unarmed. “The RPF at each station coordinates for security,’’ said the officials.
The Bharat Darshan train is much smaller than regular one with just seven coaches, a pantry and a safety compartment with a carrying capacity of 540 persons.