Karnataka’s luxury train Golden Chariot, which has remained off the rails for over three years, is set to chug again for the first time since a complete overhaul, in March.
This will also be its inaugural run after the operations were taken over from the Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC) by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC).
IRCTC officials confirmed that the first run would be on March 14 and the second on March 21. The Golden Chariot’s official website has scheduled departures till April 2023 but sources admitted much of it would depend on the response. Earlier, the IRCTC had scheduled a February 14 departure but had to put this off owing to operational reasons, and people who had booked the tour were given the option to be accommodated in the new itinerary or get a refund.
The refurbishing also took time as during the pandemic, many interior works were pending. These resumed in September/October 2020, said the sources.
Though catering largely to overseas tourists, the IRCTC has been forced to tap the domestic travellers as international tourism is still not open. “The response is good and encouraging and we have more than 50% bookings for both the scheduled departures,” according to the IRCTC officials who said they expect to run a full house owing to pent-up demand for travel.
All norms related to COVID-19 would be complied to and tourists could be confident of high degree of sanitation and hygiene which would be “built-in”, given the international standards of luxury that entails the Golden Chariot.
The luxury train would have had a complete makeover, with new features including renovated cabins, bathrooms, and new upholstery besides Wi-Fi-enabled smartrooms in every cabin.
The rakes have also got a different suspension which will pave the way for smoother ride without much jerks. Introduced in 2010, it was billed as the pride of Karnataka tourism and the itineraries included coverage of major places of tourist interest in Karnataka and south India. However, it ran into operational losses amounting to ₹41 crore, following which the government of Karnataka suspended its operations temporarily — both for refurbishing the coaches and finalising a new agency to run the train.