NEW DELHI: India’s super luxury Maharajas’ Express is all set to chug into Latin America with the Mexican government approaching Indian Railways to start a similar service in their country to provide royal experience for tourists.
The Mexican ambassador to India, Melba Maria Pria Olavarrieta, is taking a keen interest in the project and the country has proposed rail projects worth Rs 30,000 crore to India. But India has raised concerns about mafias active in the country and demanded security for workers. Kidnapping, carjacking and robbery by organized criminal groups is a serious problem in Mexico. According to statistics published by the Mexican Secretaria de Gobernacion (SEGOB), in 2013 kidnappings nationwide increased 20 per cent over the previous year. Additionally, Mexico suffered an estimated 1,05,682 kidnappings in 2012; only 1,317 were reported to the police.
Maharajas’ Express has won the World Travel Award in the category of ‘World’s Leading Luxury Train’ for three consecutive year starting 2012. A delegation led by Mexican Tourism secretary Claudia Ruiz Massieu has already discussed the proposal with IRCTC CMD AK Manocha in December 2014. This is the first time that any country has approached India with a proposal to run a luxury train.
Olavarrieta is regularly following up on the issue and both sides are scheduled to hold another round of talks this week. Mexico has already given a detailed presentation of their requirement and specifications to IRCTC and the PSU has to also give details of their concerns if they want to go ahead with project.
According to IRCTC, Mexico has selected the Maharajas after studying 13 other luxury trains in the world. The country has also offered India to lay 1,700 kms of rail track and set up a rail coach and engine manufacturing factory. The Indian Railways Catering & Tourism Corporation Ltd (IRCTC) is a railway PSU. Railways run four other luxury trains—Palace on Wheels, The Golden Chariot, Royal Rajasthan on Wheels and Deccan Odyssey. “We are looking forward to working with the country but have raised issues related to security as there are mafias active in the country and they need to provide security to our staff members. Money is also an issue and they have assured us to make all necessary arrangements for money, security and infrastructure support needed,” said a senior IRCTC official, adding that what impressed Mexico was the luxury offered in the train. Many ambassadors to India, the most recent being Spanish, French and Chinese, have travelled on the train and praised the five-star living it offers on wheels.
Describing the train, Manocha said on the train one can travel like the maharajas of India, with one’s own butlers and all the elegance of a bygone era—getting high on spirits in the exclusive Safari Bar served in imported hand-cut crystal glasses, or over range of world cuisine and Indian delicacies served on fine Limoges plates and gold, and silver-plated cutlery in one of two exclusive restaurants.
Yet unlike the days of maharajas, state-of-the-art amenities such as Wi-Fi in rooms, plasma TVs with satellite channels, DVD players and individual climate control ensures such luxury that even the kings would envy.
Started in 2010, Maharajas’ Express offers five fascinating journeys crisscrossing some of the most vibrant destinations across India. IRCTC has already tied up with Indian missions abroad to popularize the train. It has also sent copies of coffee table books on Maharajas’ Express to embassies in India to propagate facilities offered.
The royal travel comes pricey as packages in India start from Rs 30,000-Rs 50,000 per night for deluxe cabin and go up to Rs 2.5lakh-Rs 3 lakh per night for suites. All guest salons have been named after a precious stone or the Navratnas. Each coach incorporates the gemstone after which they are named as its motif.