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Railways to rent out self-designed coaches for tour operators

In a bid to garner more revenue through non-fare revenue models, the Ministry of Railways has decided to offer its coaches on hire to tour operators who will also be allowed to design the interiors based on their needs.

According to the new tourism policy, these coaches can be rented out by tourists on actual tariff rate which would be attached and detached to several trains as per their itinerary. "The tourists will be allowed to design it as per their requirement in compliance with safety standard of the railways," said a senior railway official.

The official also stated that the railways will charge a fixed fee from tour operators but the maintenance will be under the railways. "The fares would be fixed by tour operators as per their business module and the railways will not interfere," the official said, adding that at an initial stage, the coaches would be hired out on important tourist circuits.

According to the official, the interiors of coaches would be designed by tour operators. "They would be allowed to have their own kitchen, furniture, decor, etc inside the coaches. After reaching their destination, the coaches will be detached and soon be positioned at the station for a day or two. Following this, it would soon be attached to some other train," the official added.

The mandate of new Rail Tourism Policy 2017 is to focus on not only on the luxury segment but also to cover budget, heritage and pilgrimage tourism along with an aim to encourage PPP model in rail tourism.

Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) president Pranab Sarkar said, "It is indeed a good decision taken by Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu. We have been demanding for this move for several years. The move will help in the promotion of the tourism sector."

He also stated that due to the presence of several tourist destinations in India that are connected to the railways, the new policy will be a boon to tour operators to explore untapped business opportunities. "We are planning to offer the tourists to stay in coaches instead of hotels. We hope that it will be a great success among both domestic and foreign tourists," Sarkar added.

However, the government is also mulling a new 'hill rail tourism development policy' involving various stakeholders to reduce losses from 'Toy Train' running in Darjeeling and the Himalayan section between New Jalpaiguri – Darjeeling, Nilgiri Mountain connecting Mettupalayam to Ooty, Kalka-Shimla Railway line, etc. The government is planning to run Toy Trains on PPP model.
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