High haulage charges turn Golden Chariot into white elephant

High haulage charges turn Golden Chariot into white elephant

Luxury train may stop on its tracks after trips booked for this year

High haulage charges turn Golden Chariot into white elephant

This could be the last year on tracks for the state’s own luxury express - Golden Chariot. Due to the increasing haulage charges, the department is in a fix on what to do after the train completes 10 years. The Golden Chariot started chugging in 2008.

The state has been paying haulage charges (transportation charges from one point to another for using tracks) to the Railways from Day One. In the last 10 years, the haulage charges increased manifold though the number of trips have been cut drastically. In the first two years, the train had 31 trips a year, while it is just between eight and 10 now.

The Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC) has incurred a loss of Rs 32.74 crore over the last eight years, more than the initial investment for launching the train (Rs 32 crore).

“It has been nine years since the department has been holding talks with the Railways on implementing the revenue-sharing model. They agreed in 2002, but went back on the promise just before the train’s launch in 2008,” Naveen Raj Singh, tourism secretary, told DH.

The state and the Railways had signed a memorandum of understanding on December 20, 2002.
It was decided to run the train on a 50-50 revenue sharing model for five years and renew it subsequently. But on January 23, 2008, the Railways backtracked on the revenue sharing model and imposed the haulage charge policy.

Since the haulage charges are high, the department is forced to pass on the burden to travellers, so the ticket costs too are high (Rs 1.82 lakh for seven days onboard). The number of bookings have come down because of the cost. Due to the high haulage charges, the Southern Splendour Circuit covering Tamil Nadu and Kerala had to be cancelled.

“We just do not know what to do with the train,” Singh said, expressing helplessness to run it successfully.

Kumar Pushkar, KSTDC managing director, said the department was paying haulage charges in two components- fixed and variable. Under fixed, whether the train is running or not, Rs 56 lakh has to be paid to the railways every quarter (which is Rs 2.26 crore annually). The department also pays Rs 1,284 per kilometre every day in addition to the fixed Rs 96,000 to the ministry whenever the train runs.

“This year the train will run as we have promised the travellers. The first trip will be on October 16. So far, we have got more than 40 confirmed bookings. But we have to see what to do next year. In the last two years, we have not cancelled any trips which were promised. There have been instances when we have run the train with just eight passengers, against the carrying capacity of 88,” he said.