CHENNAI: Planning a trip to Shirdi at the end of the year has become easier with the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) announcing a special 6-day package inclusive of return train journey.
The ‘Puthandu Mahangal Darshan’ tourist train will depart on December 29 from Madurai, arrive at Chennai on the same day and reach Shirdi the next day. After a stay of one-and-a-half days, it would bring back pilgrims to Chennai on Jan 3 morning. The train will have a total of seven sleeper coaches, two 3AC coaches and one 2AC coach with on-train vegetarian catering service. Tour escorts, coach security and a public address system for devotional songs and announcements will be provided.
“This was following passenger requests as the only train from Chennai to Shirdi has a high waiting-list during December,” said a senior IRCTC official. With the steady increase of pilgrims to Shirdi from Chennai, the only weekly train, Shirdi Express, had a waiting list in the range of 200-300 for December.
Recently, Chennai Central MP, SR Vijaykumar, raised the issue and demanded a daily train in the Parliament session. “When booking starts 60 days in advance, tickets are sold out within five minutes,” said a Chennai-based travel agent, expressing the difficulty in planning a pilgrimage. The IRCTC special train has another advantage. Currently, those taking Shirdi Express would get to spend less than 24 hours at the pilgrim centre on reaching there on Thursday morning.