With three trips cancelled, the customers had to be convinced to take the train on October 7 or on 9.

Why is Karnataka govt bent on operating the loss making Golden Chariot trainImage: The Golden Chariot, Simon Plelow/Flickr
news Dasara Thursday, October 06, 2016 - 17:06

Half way through Dasara, three of the five trips of Karnataka’s luxury train The Golden Chariot have been cancelled. However, Karnataka tourism minister Priyank Kharge claims that the service is not a loss making one.

The train is being operated by the Karnataka State Tourism Department Corporation in association with the Union Ministry of Railways (MoR) since 2008.

KSTDC announced a special Dasara tour package for two nights and one day priced at Rs. 30,000 per person. The trip includes a visit to Mysuru and Srirangapatna. 

The trips scheduled for October 1, 3 and 5 were cancelled and the tourism department tried to convince the customers to take the train on October 7 or on October 9.

While he admits that trips have been cancelled, he said that the service would run a full-house on October 7. In fact, he said that he will also be travelling in The Golden Chariot on Friday.

“The trips were cancelled as there weren’t many bookings coming through mostly because of the ongoing Cauvery dispute,” Kharge said.

The government is yet to take a call on whether the service will run on October 9, which is the Dasara finale ride.

Kharge told The News Minute that the reason for the loss that the state government incurred till 2015, was because of the heavy haulage charges that the state had to pay the MoR.  However, this year the tourism department has tried to negotiate with the union ministry to amend the haulage charge policy for luxury trains.

“From the time it was operational, the tourism department has spent about Rs 50 crore on maintenance operations. About 90% of the amount has been paid to the railways as haulage charges till 2015. It requires about Rs 50 lakh per month to maintain the train,” he said.

“After a meeting before this year’s Dasara, we tried to negotiate. So we are hoping this will not affect the revenue, so we would be paying the MoR lesser.”

He added that Palace on Wheels, the luxury train that runs in Rajasthan shares its revenue with the railways. “During the meeting I proposed to them to consider a revenue-sharing model and waive the haulage charges to which union railways minister Suresh Prabhu responded positively. However, a concrete decision was not taken,” he said.

In 2015, an exhaustive report by the CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General of India) pointed out the discrepancies and huge losses in the Golden Chariot project. It stated that the objective of the project, to promote tourism and showcase unique tourist attractions in the state, was not achieved as it was not well planned.

“The defective agreement giving undue advantage to the management partner, operation of excess coaches than required, a large number of passengers travelling on complimentary passes, extension of benefits in violation of terms of agreement, acceptance of bookings without receipt of money and violation of tariff policy are some of the major reasons for the project’s failure,” the CAG report stated.

KSTDC’S decision to run excess coaches had resulted in unnecessary haulage charges. They even operated the train when the occupancy was less than the stipulated limit, the report said.

“The Golden Chariot did not even recover its operating cost, despite receiving a financial assistance of Rs 12.33 crore from the state government,” the CAG commented.

Faced with these issues, the state’s tourism minister told The News Minute that the government plans to operate the service on weekends throughout the year.  “We are also planning to extend the service to Hampi, Pattadakal and Bijapur. However, we will have a test run to see if it is economical,” he said.

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