On Friday, Indian Railways has decided to transform 200 saloons into 10 luxury tourist trains to be operated by the IRCTC in a proposal to regulate the use of the colonial era-style carriages and generate additional revenue for the national transporter, said sources.
Considered initially as inspection cars to be used exclusively by railway officials to visit far areas, these saloons will comprise of two bedrooms, a pantry, a lounge, a kitchen, and a toilet, which will be developed to facilitate the stay for up to five days. Sources further stated, “While a designated number of saloons will be kept for use of railway officials for inspection, 200 of them will be turned over to IRCTC and will be operated as tourist trains. Upon conversion, around ten such trains can be put into service for public use.”
Amid concerns over the misuse of these saloons by the officials in 2018, the Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal had give up the use of his own personal ones, termed them “trappings of a colonial mindset”. He had further urged zones to give up saloons for public use as well.
It continued that the Indian Railway Board was ready to set of instructions for its zones to “strictly regulate” the use and number of such saloons.
Sources also stated that these should be primarily used for inspection purposes with focus on safety. Besides, the observation car and saloons for zone general managers, each zone will be offered with two additional carriages for the purpose of inspection only, the Board is learned to have decided.
Each railway division will also have a self-developed inspection car with windows at both ends. According to the instructions, the remaining should be used for “premium tourist traffic” to gain “additional revenue” for the railways.
Indian Railways have a total of 336 saloon cars across railway zones, which many have already been criticized and nearly 62 saloon cars are air-conditioned.
IRCTC operated the first privately-occupied saloon coach, featured with air-conditioned rooms, attached bathroom, and valet services in March 2018. The cost incurred to charter the saloon car was around Rs. 2 lakh.
Once routes get finalized, the details will be made available on the official website of IRCTC for booking of these saloons, added sources.