As KSTDC mulls changes, Golden Chariot will not chug this year

As KSTDC mulls changes, Golden Chariot will not chug this year

A view of the train's interiors.

It will be for the first time since its launch in 2008, that not just a few trips, but the train will be off tracks for four months from October 2018 to January 2019.

This is because, the Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC) has decided to follow Maharashtra’s semi-privatisation model in the luxury train’s operations. Officials have drafted a plan to ensure that the train is a revenue generator and is easy to manage. However, due to model code of conduct that was in place for the recent Assembly elections, their plan was put on hold and later due to delay in government formation and portfolio allocation.

“Our (KSTDC) contract with service providers-Maple Group of Hotels, has ended. We have decided to adopt Maharashtra’s Deccan Odyssey model to bring the train on track,” said a senior KSTDC official, seeking anonymity.

The KSTDC has decided to privatise marketing, sales and operations. “This model is better. As a government agency, we cannot regularly travel to foreign countries to market the train. There are approval hiccups. We also cannot engage an agency to market as they demand seat allocation to show sales figures. Overall management will rest with the state government,” the official added.

The KSTDC has also worked out modalities to slash ticket rates up to 50%, especially after Ministry of Railways agreed on 60:40 revenue sharing instead of fixed haulage charges. “Since we no more have to pay fixed haulage charges to Railways, we plan to increase the number of short and long trips and reduce ticket charges. But, government’s approval for all these is required. After this, tenders will be called,” the official said.

The KSTDC has set a six months’ deadline line to invite tenders, finalise the agencies, give them time to redo interiors and plan the ticket rates. “It is most likely that the train will be on tracks from Christmas or January 2019,” he added.