The first Bharat Gaurav train (theme-based tourist circuit train) from Karnataka to cover Kashi, Pragyaraj and Ayodhya, which was supposed to be run by July, is not anywhere close to making its debut. The sharp escalation in the initially proposed ticket price per passenger for the 7-day package and the changes in the planned route are cited as reasons for the delay. It is now likely to have its maiden run only in November or December.
The Indian Railway Catering Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), Muzrai, Haj and Waqf Ministry and Endowment departments are involved in this venture. The State Finance department last week permitted 4G (need to call tenders) exemption to allow IRCTC to manage this tourist train, a reliable source said.
Karnataka needs to pay Railways an annual haulage charge of Rs 3 crore along with operational costs that would be calculated based on the kilometres covered.
From the Rs 15,000 per person proposed by IRCTC for a passenger when the proposal was mooted a few months ago, the cost per ticket has now been specified as Rs 25,000, said a top official. “Even if the Rs 5,000 subsidy given by the State for anyone going to Kashi is taken into account, it would still work out to Rs 20,000 per passenger. We are assessing if the public would be willing to pay this much,” another official said.
“It will be profitable venture only if it has at least 70% occupancy. If the ticket price puts off pilgrims we could end up with huge losses as we plan to run it thrice a month,” he added.
While IRCTC entrusted with taking care of all arrangements is ready to reduce the ticket cost by booking cheaper accommodation, the State is keen that the stay for pilgrims at all places must be comfortable and there should not be any cost-cutting on that aspect.
Another bone of contention is the new proposal mooted to run the train via Belagavi. “The original plan was to route it via Hubballi and the feasibility is still being discussed,” another official said. A maximum of 704 passengers can travel per train which is likely to have 19-coaches.