Shatabdi is the heart of Indian railways

One of the best ways to see India is to undertake a train journey, and the Shatabdi Express – the heart of Indian railways – is one such rail network that offers one of the best options for domestic travellers, says travel guide book Lonely Planet.

After enabling curious Indian travellers to experience the world via outbound travel guides specifically designed for Indian travellers last year, Lonely Planet is exploring the domestic Indian market with its new series of ‘pocket travel guides’.

The first in the series of pocket books titled, “Holidays by Shatabdi” was recently launched in the capital as a guide to destinations easily reachable by Shatabdi from Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai being next in the series.

“After the launch of our Lonely Planet for the Indian Traveller series last year and Short Escapes travel guides series in March 2013, we decided to tap those tourists who use the services of Shatabdi Express to travel to destinations in the sub-continent,” says Sesh Sheshadri, General Manager, Lonely Planet India.

“Shatabdi Express being one of the most popular trains in this genre was first on our mind when we decided to come out with a guide for train travellers.’Holidays by Shatabdi’ enables travellers to make the most of their trips by visiting destinations near the city. The first in the series is for travellers who board Shatabdi from Delhi,” he added.

Also on the agenda are a set of books that can take the cinema loving tourist to places inside the country that have a Bollywood connection.

“The ‘Bollywood Escape’ series will focus on places which are known for some bollywood connection, be it a shooting spot for any movie or something other,” Sheshadri told PTI.

According to him, whenever we think about luxury travelling from Indian railways the international tourists zero down on options like Deccan Queen, Maharaja Express or Palace on wheels.

“But we cannot ignore the domestic travellers for whom Shatabdi can also be an option for luxury and comfortable travelling, ” he said adding, “the domestic market is much bigger considering the number of Indian rail travellers every year and hence our effort is to provide the travellers, the benefit of travelling with authentic information.

The guide being pocket size is a quick read for anyone on the go and enables travellers to make the most of their time by exploring destinations close to Delhi. The travel guide lists all the must see tourist destinations with comprehensive details about places to stay, food, and shopping.

Priced at Rs. 140 each, the guide also features value-for-money suggestions for travellers along with expert travel tips and advice. It gives a detailed picture of fun filled activities for all interests and age groups.

Compiled by a team of five travel writers including Juhi Saklani, Karuna Ezara Parikh, Parvati Sharma, Puneetinder Kaur Sindhu and Sarah Islam, the guides are produced in full colour and packed with photographs to inspire the readers to pack up their bags and board Shatabdi.

Hike in food rates likely for Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto

After revising the food tariff for all trains except premier services last year, Railways have come up with a proposal to increase the rates of food served in Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto.

As per the proposal, the overall increase in food item would be higher for passengers travelling in AC-II, III and chair car categories, but would be minimum for AC-I.

Passengers in premier trains – Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto – are entitled to meals and snacks for which charges are included in the price of the ticket.

“A decision has to be taken whether the food charges will be revised without increasing the fares in premier trains, or include it in the ticket and allow the fares to go up,” a source in Railways said.

If the tariff revision is announced with inclusion of ticket rate, then fares of premier trains will see hike for the second time after the latest increase on January 22.

Railways had constituted a committee during the then Railway Minister P K Bansal’s tenure to suggest improvement in food quality and also for suitable revision in food prices which was left untouched for more than 10 years.

The panel has recommended that lunch and dinner for premier train passengers travelling in AC-II, III and chair car coaches should go up from Rs. 88 to Rs. 125.

But in the case of the AC 1 and Executive Class, there would be only a hike of Rs. 13 for lunch and dinner. Breakfast prices may increase by Rs. 24 for AC-I, and Rs. 31 for other categories of passengers.

The panel’s recommendation for hiking food tariff in premier trains was presented to Railway Minister C P Joshi in a recent review meeting.

“The Minister’s nod for hiking the food tariff in premier trains is awaited,” the source said, adding that “input cost has gone up many times since the last revision.”

Besides suggesting hike in food tariff, it has also suggested a number of measures to improve catering services in premier trains.

While some items like cold drinks and chocolates are to be removed from the menu of premier trains, ice creams and curd will be bought from reputed brands only.

Published in: on June 6, 2013 at 3:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Bangalore-Chennai double-decker train to ply soon

Indian Railways have been operating double-deckers on three routes: Howrah-Dhanbad; New Delhi-Jaipur and Mumbai-Ahmedabad since 2011-12.

The Bangalore-Chennai service is expected to lure more passengers to take the train, rather than ride a bus on the 360-km route. The trip will take six hours.

“The double-decker train is on trial run for a fortnight, and its operations are being fine-tuned in terms of safety, speed, halts and other technical parameters. Once we get statutory clearances, we will introduce the service before this month-end,” Bangalore division railway manager A.K. Agarwal told IANS.

To be operated daily, the train will initially have 10 AC chair cars and two power cars for air-conditioning, lights and auxiliary services.

“Each coach will have 120 reclining seats, with 50 in the upper deck, 48 in the lower and 22 in the middle, split at entrance on both sides. Being a double-decker, the train will carry 42 more passengers in each coach as against 78 per coach in a Shatabdi,” Agarwal said.

Unlike in Shatabdi, where food service is included in the fare, passengers in the double-decker will have the choice of ordering a-la-carte menu from pantry service in each coach as in other superfast trains like Brindavan Express and Lalbagh Express.

“As the fare to travel in double-decker will be same (Rs.440) as in AC chair car of Brindavan or Lalbagh, we are confident of attracting more passengers to travel by this train than bus or other modes of transport,” Agarwal said.

With 1,200 seats in the double-decker, the railways will not only be able to ferry more passengers to Chennai or eight other destinations in between the two metros, but also offer a choice of travelling in AC comfort.

“Though we are operating seven mail/express trains, including two Shatabdis daily between the two cities, we are unable to meet the surging demand, as evident from long waiting-lists, especially during the peak season. A double-decker will meet the shortage and tap the huge potential passenger traffic from the road sector,” Agarwal noted.

The double-decker is equipped with GPS (global positioning system)-based information system that scrolls its real-time running position, speed, distance to the next station in English, Hindi, Kannada and Tamil.

As the train will run at about 100 km an hour in some sections, the Kapurthala coach factory in Punjab has fitted the coaches with air suspension system and shock absorbers to minimise vibrations.

“The overall height of the double-decker coaches have been increased marginally by 116 mm (4.5 inches) keeping in view overhead structures, bridges, electric traction equipment and platform roof,” an official of the Lucknow-based Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) of the railways told IANS.

The coaches being two meters longer, the space between each coach is, however, lesser than in conventional trains.

The bright yellow coaches with red strips in between boast of features like aesthetically pleasing interiors, blue-cushioned seats with fire retardant upholstery, tabletops between seats in the centre and electrical points for charging mobile phones and laptops.

The double-decker also has filter control discharge toilet system.

The first double-decker was introduced between Howrah and Dhanbad in West Bengal Oct 2, 2011, the second on the New Delhi-Jaipur route Aug 25, 2012 and third on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad route Sept 12.

Published in: on March 12, 2013 at 4:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Anubhuti fare 1.5 times Shatabdi AC 1 Class

Travelling in ‘Anubhuti’ coach, the special AC luxury class proposed in this year’s rail budget, will be one and half times costlier than the first AC executive class in Shatabdis.
Railways has proposed to introduce a modern coach ‘Anubhuti’ with good ambience in Shatabdi and Rajdhani trains phase-wise, providing higher travel comfort to passengers. “We will begin with one Shatabdi train as apilot project and then Anubhuti coaches will be added in all other 16 Shatabdi trains,” railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said here on Wednesday.

He said similarly one Rajdhani train will be selected for introduction of Anubhuti coach to be followed by all other 23 Rajdhani services and mail and express trains will also be equipped with Anubhuti coaches phase-wise. Asked the fare, Bansal said it will be one and half times more than the AC 1 Class in Shatabdis. While AC 1 has 56 seats in Shatabdi, Anubhuti will have 50 ergonomically designed cushioned seats with provisions of LCD video screens.

Railway ticket discount to be restricted to basic fare

The railway ministry has decided to restrict the discount on rail tickets to beneficiaries to the basic fare.
From April 1, the concession will be given only on base fare component of the ticket, and it will not be provided on catering, reservation and supplementary charges.

Speaking to Hindustan Times, Neeraj Sharma, chief public relations officer, Northern Railways, said the concessions applicable in Rajdhani, Shatabdi, Jan Shatabdi and Duronto trains would not be granted on catering, reservation and supplementary charges, including superfast surcharge, enhanced reservation charges, and taxes for the these trains.

He said, “The catering charges for these trains were inbuilt as part of the ticket fare. As such, the taxes levied thereon need to be incorporated based on sector-wise calculations. The service tax changes year after year, so the tax element will be separated from the apportionment of catering charges and sector-wise service tax will be calculated separately.”

He said while all other prevailing taxes — VAT, general service tax and new taxes — would be imposed under the governing law, the tax on catering services rendered in these trains where catering charges are included in the ticket fare, would be collected by railways from the passengers separately.

A railway reservation ticket includes basic fare, reservation charge, safety charge, service tax, additional superfast charge and catering charge.

Currently, beneficiaries get concession on catering, safety and other supplementary charges on such trains. But from April they would get concession only on basic fare while the charges would be taken separately on various services offered on the reserved tickets.

“The beneficiaries will now have to pay an additional amount of Rs. 80 to Rs. 100 on their tickets,” Sharma said.

The concession in fare is availed by senior citizens, disabled, patients, medical professionals, war widows, students, artists, sportspersons and national awardees, which varies for each of these categories.

Discount on railway fares to reduce

The concessional fare for a journey on the Rajdhani, Shatabdi, Janshatabdi and Duronto expresses is set to increase with effect from April 1, 2013. The railway ministry has decided to provide discount only on the base fare component.

A railway reservation ticket fare includes basic fare, reservation charge, safety charge, service tax, additional superfast charge and catering charge. Till now, passengers were allowed concession on catering, safety and other supplementary charges on the mentioned trains.

The railway board has now decided that concessions will be given only on the base fare.

The concessional fare is availed by senior citizens, the disabled, medical professionals and national awardees. The amount of concession varies for each of these categories.

Housekeeping service likely on more trains

Encouraged by the response, railways has decided to introduce ‘on-board housekeeping services (OBHS)’ on more running mail and express trains at the country level. The railways has already introduced this new scheme in all Rajdhani, Shatabdi, Duronto and Garib Rath trains across the country.

According to a Railway Board official, this scheme has so far been introduced in about 300 trains, including important long-distance express trains, at the country level. Under the scheme, a team of cleaning workers are hired by railways to keep coach toilets, doorways, aisles and passenger coaches neat and clean during journey from the originating to terminating stations, he said, adding railways has been incurring huge expenditure on OBHS scheme to provide homely comforts to passengers.

Under OBHS, the cleaning staff are required to be present on board the trains concerned. Passengers can call them to clean the coaches and toilets if they find them dirty and unhygienic, he said.

According to sources, identification of trains for provision of OBHS scheme is still an ongoing process in every zone of railways. Cost of OBHS provision could vary from train to train as it depends on the number and type of coaches, sources said, adding railways has been executing ‘OBHS’ scheme on public-private partnership (PPP) basis across the country.

An ECR official said about 25 pairs of mail and express trains have been brought under the ‘OBHS’ scheme in the zone. This scheme has been implemented under all five divisions of ECR. Railways has been keeping a close watch on the performance of the cleaning workers. He said Mughalsarai, Barauni, Muzaffarpur and Dhanbad have been made main centres of OBHS scheme.

According to Danapur rail division PRO Ranjit Kumar Singh, the division has introduced OBHS scheme in most of the trains originating from Rajendra NagarTerminal, Patna Junction and Danapur stations. Railways has set up a team of railway officials to make surprise check of cleanliness on running trains.

AC double-decker train gets safety clearance

The first ever air conditioned double-decker train is likely to be launched shortly on the Howrah-Dhanbad route as it has obtained all necessary clearances from the Chief Commissioner Railway Safety (CCRS) after successful trial runs.

“The problems encountered during trial runs like coaches touching the edge of the platform have been sorted out and the Howrah-Dhanbad AC double-decker train with eight coaches would be flagged off soon,” said a senior Railway Ministry official.

The train will have complete sitting accommodation with each coach having a capacity of 128 passengers as compared to 78 passengers in Shatabdi chair cars, thus increasing the sitting space by almost 70 per cent.

Railways to take over catering services from IRCTC

Railways to take over catering services from IRCTC

A man boards a local train at a railway station in Kolkata February 24, 201…Railways has decided to strip the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd (IRCTC) of its catering responsibilities on the Rajdhani, Duronto, Shatabdi and all other mail and express trains.

The Catering Policy-2010 finalised by Railways have clearly spelt out that “Railways shall progressively take over management of all mobile catering services including base kitchens, pantry cars and all food stalls in railway premises”.

Railways cool to Montek critique

At present, IRCTC, a Railway subsidiary, is responsible for serving food in about 300 trains including in premier trains like Rajdhani, Duronto and Shatabdi.

With this move, IRCTC will forgo a catering business worth at least Rs 200 crores, said a senior IRCTC official.

The Railway Board will now determine the menu and tariff for the standard meals, breakfast, tea and coffee, which are included in the fare.

The new policy comes in the wake of increased passenger complaints about the quality of food served on board trains and in stations.

IRCTC will now be responsible for selling e-ticket and i-ticket and running the Rail Neer business.

Besides, it will manage Food Plaza, Food Courts, fast food units.

However, the policy has stipulated that “all such contracts presently being managed by IRCTC, on expiry of the contract period, will be awarded by the zonal railways in a phased manner”.

IRCTC will not renew any contract required to be handed over to zonal railways on expiry of the contract.

Railways Ministry has been negligent: CPI(M)

At present, there are about 65 food plazas across the country.

Railways will now formulate operating guidelines to implement the new catering policy.

Plagued with passenger complaints, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee had stated in her Budget speech this year that a new catering policy will be announced to improve the food quality.

Incidentally, IRCTC was formed during Mamata Banerjee’s regime in 2001.

The Jan Ahaar outlets started recently by Railways to provide affordable meals to all class of people will also be managed by zonal railways.

The policy took over a year to be finalised.

The last policy catering policy was formulated during Lalu Prasad’s regime in 2005.