Luxury trains get a boost from rupee free fall

The rupee’s freefall might have brought the economy to a grinding halt but India’s luxury trains are speeding along thanks to a sudden windfall of dollars from foreign tourists happy to splurge on board.

There is a spurt in bookings by foreigners.

The three big names in luxury on wheels – Palace on Wheels, Royal Rajasthan on Wheels and Maharaja Express – are getting more bookings and requests than usual, claim those in the trade.

And that means business for Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation (RTDC) and some money-saving deals for foreigners on board these trains.

Royalty on wheels

“Foreigners, especially from the US and Europe, have suddenly started sending requests and there is a jump of at least 30 per cent in the usual booking trend up to last year. We’re totally booked on Palace on Wheels in December last week and even in the slow season of January and February we’re 60-65 per cent sold out. The occupancy will only increase as these are advance bookings,” claimed an RTDC official, adding, “We’re getting a lot of last-minute requests, which is unusual, perhaps due to the fluctuating Indian currency in the global market.”

The Palace on Wheels, which usually starts in September in a low-key manner, has also got 42 bookings, almost 40 per cent occupancy assured.

“In October we’re 60-65 per cent sold out and for November it has increased to almost 80-90 per cent on different dates.

The year-end is completely booked. Had the adverse publicity generated by rape and security in India not been factors, we would have been getting more business,” the official said.

The falling rupee seems to have stirred greater interest in our luxury trains, claim RTDC senior officials. “It’s not that they have got any change in their tariff, but the falling rupee is giving travellers more leverage in spending on board in restaurants, bars, spas, and then in shopping in Indian markets while they are travelling on the road during the week-long journey,” said a manager-rank official of the Palace on Wheels.

He added: “There is a difference of almost Rs 16-18 per dollar, which they are saving in a way”. For RTDC, too, this brings in extra bucks as they are paying Indian Railways the old rate on overhauling charges.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/indianews/article-2401582/Indias-luxury-trains-boost-rupee-freefall-tourists-opportunity-splurge.html#ixzz2cwYcSPr3

Rajasthan’s Luxury trains undergo makeover

Rajasthan will spend over Rs.1.47 crores on refurbishing two luxury trains – the Palace on Wheels and the Rajasthan Royal on Wheels – this year, a tourism official said.

The Palace on Wheels, a joint venture of Indian Railways and Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation (RTDC) is in for major refurbishment at an investment of Rs.1 crore, RTDC chairman Randeep Dhankar told IANS.

RTDC will also give another world-famous luxury train, the Royal Rajasthan on Wheels, a makeover at an investment of Rs.47 lakh, in a bid to deliver a richer, royally enchanting experience to each guest, said Dhankar.

“Based on the feedback of guests, we have undertaken redecoration of the Palace on Wheels,” he said.
“The luxury tourist train will sport a new heritage look,” said Dhankar.

“We are undertaking modernisation of even minor things, including water purifiers in washrooms and other modern conveniences like superior communication and entertainment.”
“Even the dining car, the bar and the lounge will take on a wonderful new look.”
“The spa and health club will also receive major upgrades. We are working on plans to introduce more and more facilities to please our guests,” he said.

The Palace on Wheels tour covers Delhi, Jaipur, Sawai Madhopur, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur and Bharatpur.
The Royal Rajasthan on Wheels takes guests from Delhi to Jodhpur, Udaipur, Chittorgarh, Sawai Madhopur, Jaipur, Khajuraho, Varanasi and the Taj Mahal.

“On quite a few occasions the Palace on Wheels has hosted richly royal weddings and for people who plan to wed the way maharajas did, we will be offering more once the train undergoes transformation,” the official said.

New carpets, tapestry, curtains, replacement of furniture and up-gradation of toilets in both the trains are also being taken up, he added.

He said the wooden floors would have richly luxurious carpets to minimise noise.

http://www.newstrackindia.com/newsdetails/2013/08/13/210–RAjasthan-s-Luxury-trains-undergo-makeover-.html

Added facility for tourists on Kalka-Shimla heritage track

Unesco World Heritage Kalka-Shimla rail line is going to have two new added attractions for tourists as catering to the need of high-end tourists, Indian Railways has decided to introduce chartered lounge card and tourist coach facility. Attached with compact pantry, these two coaches have been fitted with sofas, that would make the 97-km journey from Kalka to uphill Shimla more comfortable.

Popularity of rail journey on the 97-km heritage track having 917 sharp curves, besides 102 tunnels and 988 bridges, could be gauged from the fact that during holidays Northern Railways is forced to run special holiday trains to cater to the high demand. According to senior officials at Ambala, trial for the luxury coach has already been done while the trial of lounge car would be done after June 12. Sources said that facilities created inside these new chartered coaches match the quality of “palace on wheels”.

While the lounge car would be 8-seater, the coach would be 9-seater. “Since long there was demand from high-end tourists to have such a facility and finally we are going to provided them the best experience,” added the official.

Assistant mechanical engineer, Ambala division, Jatinder Singh said that these two coaches were being introduced as added attraction for tourists on the heritage track. “Compact pantry car would be fitted with refrigerator and heating system,” he said.

Officials said that special attention has been paid to the interiors of these two new coaches. They said modern lights, good quality PVC wall paneling and aesthetic flooring has been done to enhance the experience of passengers. Officials said that the lounge car and the luxury coach would be stationed at Kalka railway station from where they may be hired by families are groups. “We have yet to work out the charges,” officials added.

Slow and steady

While the bus journey takes three hours to reach Shimla from Kalka, the toy train takes over five hours for the same journey. To reduce journey time, the railways had mooted a proposal to increase the speed of toy train but a study suggested that it was not feasible. Kalka-Shimla rail line was laid in 1903 and since then the toy train on this track is chugging off at a speed of 25-30 km.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Added-facility-for-tourists-on-Kalka-Shimla-heritage-track/articleshow/20436075.cms

Grinding halt for ‘royal’ train soon?

After changing its colour thrice since its launch, the Royal Rajasthan on Wheels (RROW), a super luxury tourist train that can barely break even during its run, now looks at getting its haulage model changed. The fixed haulage charges, now applicable to luxury trains, are highly exorbitant.

Following a letter by chief minister Ashok Ghelot to railways minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, chief secretary C K Mathew and officials from the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation (RTDC) are slated to meet member traffic, Railway Board at New Delhi, in this regard.

‘Royal Rajasthan on Wheels’ – touted as India’s most luxurious train – is a joint venture between RTDC and Indian Railways. At the moment, the Rajasthan government owes Rs 30 crore haulage charges to the ministry and with RTDC running in losses, it seemed adifficult thing to run the train on the current model.

In 2010, the railway board had increased haulage charges from Rs 1,000 per kilometre to Rs 2,000. If the RTDC had paid Rs 30 lakh per trip as haulage charges, it has to pay nearly Rs 60 lakh per trip now. While the railway board had offered a discount of 40% since 2011, the objective of the meeting would be to negotiate with the board to consider extending the discount by two more years i.e. till 2009 when the RROW was flagged off. The RROW which is parked for the season is said to have run on 50% capacity last season and generated Rs one crore which barely covered running expenses and commissions to general sales agents (GSAs). For the next season, only 25 per cent tickets are booked.

“The haulage charges are exorbitant and we plan to propose to the railways to run the train on revenue sharing basis as the Palace on Wheels (POW). While railways get 56% of the revenue, Rajasthan’s share is 44% is far more logical,” said Vinod Ajmera, managing director of RTDC. Besides there would also be discussion on POW coaches overhauling, he said. The average life of the train coaches is 18 years but POW has already done 18 years, well past its life.

Unlike POW which has been running on fixed itinerary for years, RROW has since its inception been a “victim of officials and politicians’ whims and fancies”. A stark example is when the train was running in losses, it changed its colour thrice. “Initially, it was painted golden to reflect the colour of the sand. This was when BJP was in power. In late 2008, Congress came to power and with it the train’s colour was changed to dark yellow. And then, the train’s colour was changed to blue. Initially, the RTDC was reluctant to change the colour since it had already bought yellow paint. But the train finally had to be painted blue at a cost of over Rs 4 lakh to the RTDC at a time when the train was incurring a loss of Rs 5 crore every season,” a source said.

Moreover, while POW for years maintains the same well-researched itinerary, RROW is now contemplating changing the itinerary, which will also be one of the issues listed on the agenda of the meeting.

http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Scripting/ArticleWin.asp?From=Search&Source=Find&Key=TOIJ/2013/04/27/3/Ar00302%2Exml&CollName=TOI_JAIPUR_DAILY_2009&DOCID=413352&Keyword=%28%3Cmany%3E%3Cstem%3Erailways%29&skin=TOINEW&AppName=1&PageLabel=3%20&ViewMode=HTML

Expo that rekindles train of thought

Want to board on ‘Ooty Train’ or the very famous ‘Beach-Tambaram Electric train – 1965’ or ‘coach with a coupes’ or travel in ‘palace on wheels” under one roof, one must walk in to the Regional Rail Museum situated amid sylvan surroundings in an area of 6.2 acres inside Integral Coach Factory premises, Villivakkam. Situated in a comparatively clean and green environment, the museum is one among the five regional museums, inaugurated in 2002. It receives close to 6,000 visitors a month and on Sundays alone around 400.

Just not for kids, even an adult’s and train enthusiast’s thirst of knowledge is quenched by the employees. Anytime between 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on all days except Mondays, the museum for rails has so much to speak about rail history starting from pre-Independence till now.

Out Door Live Exhibits have steam engine made in the year 1909, wagon of 1925, first and second class wooden body of Ooty train – 1965 model, the famous Beach-Tambaram electric train, hand travelling crane of 1887, hospital on wheels, steam crane made in England in 1930, line-up of various bogies, push trolley of yesteryears and inspection car with dual-brake system.

The museum has a built up area of 360 square metres, the three-tier running scale model layout with signal circuiting, is a must to watch. It has a gallery of scaled models, photographs and a toy train that takes visitors around museum. Rails are integral part of our lives, and Railways has a history of around 150 years. Museum captures the spectacular history of Railways which has passed through many developmental stages. One can visualise the skills, innovativeness and entrepreneurship of railways looking at the artefacts of yesteryears.

Recently there was a trial run of double-decker train to be operated between Chennai and Bangalore shortly by Railways. Believe it! Double-decker coaches were first made in the year 1863, in the wooden era of coaches.

It ran between Bombay and Baroda in the Central Indian Railway. Heritage furniture used in the waiting rooms of railway stations, and a convertible ladder-cum-chair used in the inspection car, astonishingly still tickling perfect, a hand wound wall clock of 1878 by ‘Smiths’ made in England are a must to see.

‘Shortly we will have a Science Museum too which will provide micro details to the visitors. We have started accumulating required exhibits and we are working towards it,” says Mr. Kalyanasundram – curator of the museum.

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-downtown/expo-that-rekindles-train-of-thought/article4470559.ece

Royal Rajasthan on Wheels’ – India’s most luxurious train

Royal Rajasthan on Wheels’ – touted as India’s most luxurious train – is a joint venture between Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation Ltd (RTDC) and the Indian Railways.

The train will run every Sunday between October and April from Delhi. It will travel across three states – Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

Consisting of 35 coaches, the train has a ferrying capacity of 82 passengers in one trip. The train has on board a spa, gymnasium, specials suites, deluxe saloons and two restro-lounges which make the journey truly a ‘royal experience’

When this train started operating, the journey costs were $4,130 (Rs.2,14,760), one had to shell out $1,600 (Rs.83,200) per day more if one travels in the special suite.

The train will go to Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Udaipur, Khajuraho and Agra. And the journey will culminate in Varanasi,” RTDC chairman Pramod Sharma said. The entire journey would be completed in seven days.

“This train is better than ‘Palace on Wheels’ as it is more spacious and grander. It has every luxury which anyone would want,” said Sharma.

So far, the service has been really good and the crew is really hospitable. It would be too early to say anything about the train as the journey has not even started yet,” an Australian tourist Kent Vodan told IANS while the train was at Safdarjung station.As the train started its maiden trip in 2009, there were 61 foreign tourists on board.
http://in.finance.yahoo.com/photos/luxury-on-wheels-by-the-indian-railways-slideshow/#crsl=%252Fphotos%252Fluxury-on-wheels-by-the-indian-railways-slideshow%252Froyal-rajasthan-on-wheels-photo-1349680816.html

New luxury train launched by Indian Railways

A new luxury train, which will cover tourist destinations in three states, started its maiden journey from Safdarjung railway station in the capital Sunday.

‘Royal Rajasthan on Wheels’ – touted as India’s most luxurious train – is a joint venture between Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation Ltd (RTDC) and the Indian Railways.

The train will run every Sunday between October and April from Delhi. It will travel across three states – Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

“The train will go to Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Udaipur, Khajuraho and Agra. And the journey will culminate in Varanasi,” RTDC chairman Pramod Sharma said. The entire journey would be completed in seven days.

Consisting of 35 coaches, the train has a ferrying capacity of 82 passengers in one trip. The train has on board a spa, gymnasium, specials suites, deluxe saloons and two restro-lounges which make the journey truly a ‘royal experience’.

“This train is better than ‘Palace on Wheels’ as it is more spacious and grander. It has every luxury which anyone would want,” said Sharma.

While the journey will cost $4,130 (Rs.2,14,760), one will have to shell out $1,600 (Rs.83,200) per day more if one travels in the special suite.

On Sunday, as the train started its maiden trip, there were 61 foreign tourists on board.

“So far, the service has been really good and the crew is really hospitable. It would be too early to say anything about the train as the journey has not even started yet,” an Australian tourist Kent Vodan told IANS while the train was at Safdarjung station.

http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2012-10-07/news/34306347_1_new-luxury-train-deluxe-saloons-and-two-maiden-journey

Upgraded Palace on Wheels to attract more tourists

Exquisitely carved interiors, intricate gold tapestry, crisp white curtains and shimmering bejewelled walls – not for nothing is India’s Palace on Wheels one of the top 10 luxury trains in the world. And now it offers more.

A royal spa car and spruced up interiors are among the improved amenities introduced in the train last month and these are being offered to guests at no extra cost.

‘The upgraded version is surely going to work better,’ said Manjit Singh, chairman and managing director of the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation (RTDC) which manages the train.

‘The advance booking for the train takes place much before the beginning of the season. It’s an indication that this train is a success,’ Singh said.

And the season has just begun. The 24-coach train, with a capacity of 104 guests, departs from New Delhi every Wednesday between September and April. It runs mainly overnight with guests waking up to an exciting new destination in Rajasthan or Uttar Pradesh.

A night in the exotic train costs $400-500 (Rs.18,000-20,000), depending on the service one opts for.

For American tourist Perry Marco, a friend’s advice was worth the experience last year. ‘I had heard about this train from a friend, and decided to take the journey myself. Really, it’s a beautiful experience. A spectacular showcasing of ancient heritage. I don’t mind giving a second shot to it,’ he said.

Marco’s wife Lydia said: ‘This is the best way to see the royal palaces of Rajasthan, the rich history and culture.’

There are 14 carriages, each with four en-suite rooms and attendants, two restaurant cars, one small gym, a beauty salon and a bar lounge car. Each carriage is decorated individually with luscious fabrics and named after a different Rajput state – making Palace on Wheels an apt name!

The newly added Royal Space is attached to the carriages and boasts of ayurvedic and non-ayurvedic massages.

The 52 rooms in the train with single, double and triple occupancies can accommodate 104 passengers on any fully-booked tour.

For Lalit Pawar, the chairman of the India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) and former managing director of RTDC, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. ‘Only heaven can be equated with Palace on Wheels,’ Pawar told IANS.

‘The train travels almost 2,200 km. The stoppages offer four different rides: elephant, camel, boat and safari. I have got amazing feedback from guests telling me how much they loved the journey,’ he said.

Pawar said because of the cost, Indian travellers give it a miss.

‘We will certainly work on an economy version of the train. I feel we should explore every possibility of making this royal treat available to the Indian masses,’ said Pawar, who has an eight-year-long experience with RTDC.

The train makes its way through the royal forts and palaces of ‘Pink City’ Jaipur, ‘Golden City’ Jaisalmer, touches base at Ranthambore, famous for its tigers, and also Agra, home to the Taj Mahal.

There’s space for gastronomic delights too. It has two lavish restaurants – The Maharaja and The Maharani – with a Rajasthani ambience serving palate tickling Continental, Chinese and Rajasthani cuisines.

Belgium-based Watson Seron said: ‘Oh! I fell in love with the food…Maharaja (restaurant) has a lot to offer. The luxury quotient is high.’

Mellisa Craig from Belgium said she has travelled the world, but this was her best experience. ‘I travel a lot. And this has been my best experience so far. They take so much care of the guests. I would love to come again,’ she added.

‘It passes like a flash. Palace on Wheels ends like a dream,’ signs off Lydia on a nostalgic note.

(Madhulika Sonkar can be contacted at madhulika.sonkar@gmail.com)

http://sify.com/finance/palace-on-wheels-a-royal-caravan-journey-into-history-feature-news-default-kjfmkcjidhh.html

Published in: on September 5, 2010 at 4:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Palace on Wheels judged fourth among top 10 luxury trains

JAIPUR: Great news for tourism in Rajasthan. The state’s luxury train, Palace on Wheels has been declared the fourth best among the top 10 luxury trains of the world by the travel magazine Conde Nast. For 2009, the magazine had asked its readers to vote for their favourite train.

They were asked to rank each train out of 100 points. Palace on Wheels attained 83.94 points and was ranked fourth below the Venice Simplon-Orient Express (89.92 points), Eurostar (86.92 points) and Pride of Africa, Rovos Rail (84.25 points). There is no other luxury train of India in the top 10 trains. The newly launched Royal Rajasthan on Wheels (RROW) was not ranked since it is a new train.

The chairman and managing director of Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation (RTDC), Manjit Singh, said the announcement will give a big boost not only to the luxury trains of Rajasthan but also tourism in the state. He said the train was currently undergoing major revamp at a cost of Rs. 1.5 crore. The interior of the train were being redone. A spa was being added to the facilities in the train.

The CMD also said that the tourists will be taken for a Dubai-like desert safari when the train halts at Jaisalmer. More varied food will be served. For instance, Mexican, Thai and seafood were being added to the menu. The bar was also being upgraded and some of the world’s best wines and liquor will be made available.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/Palace-on-Wheels-judged-fourth-among-top-10/articleshow/6077062.cms

Published in: on June 26, 2010 at 4:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Dish TV ties up with Railways for live TV

New Delhi, Apr 21 (PTI) For those bored during long train journeys, DTH major Dish TV today unveiled its new offering that will enable passengers to watch live television while on board.

Dish TV has partnered with the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corp (RTDC) to set up television screens on two iconic luxury trains, the Palace on Wheels and Royal Rajasthan on Wheels.

“Airlines have their in-flight entertainment systems, but the content is pre-recorded. The passengers on board these trains will now have access to live television, be it sports, news or soap operas,” Dish TV Chief Operating Officer Salil Kapoor told reporters here.

“We are in discussions with the Railways and RTDC for extending the offering to every seat, for easy viewing by each passenger. This could also be extended to other trains like Shatabdi and Rajdhanis,” he added.

http://www.ptinews.com/news/619619_Dish-TV-ties-up-with-Railways-for-live-TV