A parliamentary standing committee has asked the Railways to explain why it was running luxury trains with as low as 30 per cent occupancy. The committee on Railways, which tabled its report on Tourism Promotion and Pilgrimage Circuit in Parliament today, said the ministry should take preventive measures to counter the trend. The committee’s critique came on a day when the Railways’ senior-most official, chairman Railway Board, Ashwani Lohani, held the first interactive meeting with stakeholders in trade and travel to promote tourism in the national transporter. “The committee has taken serious note of a lack of seriousness on the part of the ministry towards low occupancy in luxury trains and expect the ministry to properly examine and spell out the reasons for running such trains with as low as 30 per cent occupancy,” the report said. The committee said a detailed analysis of the occupancy figure exposed a “shocking picture”.
The percentage of vacant seats during 2012-2017 has been 62.7 per cent, 57.76 per cent, 45.46 per cent, 45.81 per cent for Maharaja Express, Golden Chariot, Royal Rajasthan on Wheels, Deccan Odyssey and Palace on Wheels respectively. The committee, headed by TMC MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay, said what it found more disturbing was that in Maharaja Express, which is completely run by the Indian Railways, without state collaboration, during 2012-2013, 2013-2014, 2014-2016 and 2016-2017, the occupancy had been 29.86 per cent, 32.33 per cent, 41.8 per cent, 41.58 per cent and 36.03 per cent respectively. “Further, in the same train during 2013-2014, 758 seats were occupied out of 1,594 in which 97 seats had been occupied by complimentary travellers,” it said.
The report has recommended that the Railways form a special panel to look into the various reasons for such low occupancy and advice the ministry a mechanism to attract more tourists towards these luxury trains. It also suggested that the transport behemoth frame a policy on tariff/tour plan in such a way that tourists can avail the travel/facilities of these trains for amendable number of night or day not necessarily for whole journey of six-eight days as buying the whole package as offered by the Railways become expensive for most tourists. “Two or three sub-plans of shorter duration within the given journey should be chalked out to offer more acceptability by potential customers,” it said.