Updated: November 25, 2021 9:39:29 am
Private tour operators can now take trains on lease from the railways and run them on any circuit of their choice, with the freedom to decide routes, fares and quality of services under a new scheme called Bharat Gaurav, launched Tuesday.
The railways has earmarked 3,033 ICF coaches for this purpose, roughly translating to 150 trains. Anyone, from societies, trusts, consortia and even state governments can apply to take these trains and run them on special tourism circuits based on a theme.
By theme-based tourism, the railways means trains like Guru Kripa that goes to all places related to Guru Nanak or a Ramayan-themed train to touch upon places related to Lord Ram, the railways said in a statement.
Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw while launching it said this would be a new segment in Indian Railways.
“All this while we had freight and passenger segments. Bharat Gaurav would be another new segment in train services,” he said. “Our country has such rich cultural heritage. These trains are meant to take tourists to experience the places with cultural heritage,” he told reporters.
Vaishnaw said the railways has done stakeholder consultation and there was demand for ICF coaches and in the future, even Vande Bharat, vistadome and LHB type of coaches can be included. “ICF coaches have familiarity. That’s why there was a demand from the stakeholders,” he said, adding several state governments have shown interest in taking up operation for these trains.
Any interested party can apply online by registering with a one-time fee of Rs 1 lakh. The parameters of the scheme are that the operator has to offer sightseeing, food, local transport (taxi etc), hotels at stopover places, onboard entertainment and such things. The arrangement can be for two to 10 years. Operators have to give a security deposit of Rs 1 crore per rake. The size of each train would be 14-20 coaches, including two guard vans. The railways will just take haulage charges and a Right to Use fee.
The railways will set up special units in zones to facilitate and handhold the operators. Branding and advertisement are permitted inside and on the exterior of the trains.
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