THE PREMIUM luxury train Tejas Express, running from Mumbai to Goa, has failed to garner a sustained response despite the peak Mumbai-Konkan tourist season of the Ganpati festival coming up. Even as other trains to Konkan have been booked to nearly full capacity, with some passengers on the waitlist, the bookings for Tejas remain slow.
The Ganeshotsav, to be celebrated in August this year, marks a passenger rush on Konkan-bound trains about 10 to 15 days before the start of the festival. However, data from the railways shows that while popular trains such as Konkan Kanya, Mandovi Express and the Jan Shatabadi Express have nearly 400 passengers on their waitlists, more than half of the seats on the Karmali-bound Tejas from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSTM) are still to be booked.
The train was launched in May this year to offer a premium service for Konkan- and Goa-bound passengers. It was also meant to attract tourists who would otherwise travel by air. With services such as LED screens, Wi-Fi and a snacks table, the train attracted much attention in the early days after its launch. “The first 15 days saw huge occupancy in the train. People came in large numbers to experience the fancy ride the train was offering. By mid-June, we saw a dip in its demand and occupancy,” a senior railway official said.
Passengers who have booked seats to Konkan claim they find the fares too high for the journey on this route. Complaints about keeping out Madgaon and Sawantwadi stations have also come to light. “I have booked the Konkan Kanya Express in advance for both the to and fro journeys. I find the fares of Tejas exorbitant for a five-hour journey to my native place,” Girish Kulkarni, a tourist, said.
“I prefer to get down at Madgaon station as that is closer to my native place. Tejas Express does not stop there so I chose a train that does halt at the station,” Ananya Shah, another passenger, said. Tejas has 56 seats in one coach of Executive Class (EC) and 78 seats in 15 coaches of Chair Car compartment. According to the ridership figures of June and July (pre-booked), rides towards Karmali hardly witnessed less than 50% occupancy of seats. Moreover, the return trips to Mumbai also failed to see much response.
“The monsoon timetable is not working out for the train. From Goa, the train starts at 9 am. Tourists in Goa would hardly prefer to wake up so early and take the train. While monsoon does remain a non-peak season for tourists, the return trips suffer the most,” a rail official added. Passengers who have travelled by the Tejas Express said they do not find the return trip of the train feasible with their schedule. Many thus opt to see another Mumbai-bound train or take a flight.
“An early morning train from Goa does not seem feasible. It is impossible for any tourist who would have booked a stay around north Goa to wake up at 4 am, check out of the hotel and ride all the way to Karmali, which is quite a distance from the north. Thus, taking any other mode of transport seems more sensible,” said Shashank Srivastava, who had travelled on he Tejas Express on its inaugural ride from Mumbai. “The booking in Tejas Express may go up slowly for August in days to come. We have also provided 100 more trains for passengers to cater to the festive rush to Konkan,” said L K Verma, Chief Public Relations officer, Konkan Railway.