CHENNAI: Soon, passengers transiting from Chennai Central and Madurai stations, arriving well before their train’s departure, or those faced with extensive train delays will be able to relax inside a fully air-conditioned executive lounge, like the ones found in airports.
The Railway Board has come out with a detailed policy for setting up such lounges by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), which will cater to high-end passengers and offer facilities such as buffet food service, wash and change, high speed wi-fi Internet, live TV, channel music, newspaper/book stand and concierge services for pre-departure and post-arrival assistance.
The services will be offered only for passengers with reserved tickets and will be charged extra for the facilities offered by the executive lounge.
Chennai and Madurai are two of the 50 stations where the Railway Board has proposed these executive lounges, indicated through a recent circular. These plans are part of the Railway Ministry’s plans to upgrade the facilities at terminal stations. IRCTC will have to bear the entire cost, including investment on infrastructure, though external service providers could also be brought in, the circular noted.
Two spots at Chennai Central are currently under consideration by Southern Railway and IRCTC for setting up this lounge: one is the existing AC waiting hall in between the old and new concourse, and second on the first floor above the station manager’s cabin, where space was created after IRCTC vacated some of their offices.
Officials feel that the executive lounge should be on the ground floor at a location where the waiting passengers would be able to see their trains arriving on the platform. “A lounge on the first floor would also be difficult to access for senior citizens,” a railway official said. Operating the lounge would also be logistically simpler if the station had a proper circulating area and demarcated pathways, so that it would be easier for the concierge services, officials felt. In addition, building escalators or lifts at the spot would have to be expedited before the plan for lounge on first floor is approved, officials feel.
This is precisely why Madurai has emerged a station where setting up the lounge would seem easier than Chennai Central. “The station has a lot of free space in front of the station on the ground floor itself. The footfalls are also quite lower and hence the logistics for the lounge would be simpler,” said another railway official.
It also remains to be seen how this execution of this policy would play out after the cabinet approval for private players to revamp facilities at 400 A1 and A category stations across the country as there could be a possible overlap.