BENGALURU: After experiencing a rough ride in the past, Karnataka’s luxury express, Golden Chariot, may soon be on track again. Dusting off the bitter experience of the past, Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC) is now partnering with Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) to get the train chugging once more.
The two agencies are working on the revenue-sharing model before signing the agreement. KSTDC officials say the decision to join hands with IRCTC has been taken as they have the experience of running luxury express trains, and are presently working on Maharaja Express, the first luxury train of India.
KSTDC Managing Director Kumar Pushkar told CE that they had called three tenders in the past, looking for marketing and sales agencies to partner with. “In the second bid, Cox & Kings showed interest, but they backed out when the contract was being prepared. Then talks were held with IRCTC and they have in-principal agreed. They will run the train and do the marketing of the train on behalf of KSTDC. The revenue sharing is yet to be finalised.”
Pushkar added that IRCTC will also help KSTDC in marketing the train service across the country, and at various international platforms. The tie-up has come at a time when KSTDC is searching for marketing partners to increase ticket sales. KSTDC has already signed an agreement with Indian Railways to revise and share the haulage charges from a flat `55 lakh to a revenue-sharing model of 40:60.
Golden Chariot had become a white elephant for the state exchequer because of poor occupancy and high haulage charges, and has been off the tracks since 2018. Besides the losses, the issue was compounded by litigation. KSTDC’s hospitality partner had filed a case against the agency, which is still being heard in the arbitration court.
KSTDC had first stopped the services of Southern Splendour, wherein the train travelled to Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. Later the Pride of South was also stopped, where heritage sites of Hampi, Belur, Pattadakal and Halebidu where covered. To draw more crowd, KSTDC had also started short-haul services for places like Mysuru during the Dasara festival and Hampi, but the response was not as expected. KSTDC had also planned to station the train at a railway station and utilise the restaurant facility, but that also did not materialise. Officials say in the last 10 years of operation, the train did not see its full capacity for more than 8-10 rounds.