Aiming to increase earnings, Indian Railways will add a saloon to mail/express trains, if booked by passengers for exclusive travel for reaching destination in comfort by paying a little more.
Known as an Inspection Car, a saloon is a specially designed rail coach with two bedrooms, a drawing/dining room, two bathrooms, an attendant's room and a kitchen.
Facing stiff competition from low cost carriers, the national transporter is in the process of coming out with many innovative approaches to perk up revenue.
Saloons are used by senior railway officials on their inspection duty. Ministers are also entitled to use the saloon during their rail journey.
Though the saloon can comfortably accommodate six passengers, one has to pay the equivalent of 18 first class fare for the same destination in the scheduled train.
"We have allowed saloon to be booked by any passenger. It would be added as an additional coach to the existing mail/express train on demand after paying the prescribed rate," a senior Railway Ministry official said.
One can book the saloon through IRCTC, the railways' tourism and catering wing.
Railways has given written instruction to all zonal railways to allow saloons to be attached to all scheduled mail/express trains across the country. The Rajdhani, Duronto, Shatabdi and Gatimaan expresses have been exempted from this.
Currently, a Mail/Express train have between 18 to 24 coaches.
Since the saloon is equiped with cooking facility, customers will be free to make their own catering arrangements.
Railways expect the saloon will be in demand in tourist destinations and it would also be a much sought after service by newly married couples.
( Arun Kumar Das is a senior Delhi-based freelance journalist. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)