Golden Chariot charts new route to stay afloat

Golden Chariot charts new route to stay afloat

Lectures, weddings planned onboard the luxury train to draw people

Golden Chariot charts new route to stay afloat

 Loss-making luxury train, The Golden Chariot (TGC), is charting new avenues to keep itself afloat.

Come November, a group of 50 students, faculty and alumni of Stanford University, California, will hold two lectures and a conference during the seven-day trip on ‘Pride of South’ route on the Bangalore-Goa stretch.

The train is also expected to host one of the “big fat Indian weddings” on board next year. Group series bookings are also being promoted, particularly targeting international universities.

M Srinivas, Project Director, TGC, told the Deccan Herald that TGC was compelled to shift gears, if it had to break even at least by its eighth year of operation.

TGC’s occupancy rate during 2008-09 was 24 per cent; 28 per cent during 2009-10, 37 per cent during 2010-11 and 36 per cent during 2011-12.

 The train which has never run to its full capacity, received a maximum number of bookings this February with 70 passengers.

Srinivas said TGC had incurred a loss of Rs 10.76 crore in the last four years, despite launching another product – Southern Splendour, in March 2010.

While discussions have already been held with leading travel agency — Cox and Kings India Ltd — to promote the group series bookings, the TGC has also sold the “wedding on board” concept to the agency, which is said to be equally keen on the idea.

“We are sure to have a grand wedding on board next year. Cox and Kings has already started branding the concept. As part of the group series bookings, we have also tied up with the Great Rail Journeys, UK, who are specialists in escorted holidays by train.

The agency has made bookings for one whole year between 2013 and 2014. About 44 cabins have already been booked for January,” he said, adding that with these new strategies, TGC was envisioning a turn around in its business.

Railways blamed

Srinivas said the TGC would have made some profits if not for the “obstinacy” of the Indian Railways. He said before the launch of the train in 2007, the Railways backtracked from the revenue sharing model and started slapping haulage charges.

“If we were to operate on a revenue sharing basis (50:50), we would have been earning profits steadily. But the Railways has burdened us with heavy haulage charges which is seriously impacting operations of the TGC,” he said.

However, with three luxury trains — Palace on Wheels, Deccan Odyssey and TGC — building pressure on the Railways, it has agreed to give rebate on the haulage charges for the next three years.

Accordingly, the haulage burden on TGC will come down to Rs 27 lakh per trip from Rs 42 lakh a trip. Srinivas said this could only bring a temporary relief.

He said for the success of TGS as a tourism project, the government should constitute an independent authority similar to the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited.

He said a dedicated marketing fund or budget and a professional management were other prerequisites. Presently only three to four people are managing operations, marketing, accounts, and human resources, a responsibility to be shared by at least 15 people, Srinivas pointed out.

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