SOON, PUNJAB'S OWN PALACE ON WHEELS
Chandigarh August 18:
Punjab tourism's ambitious luxury train project, earlier threatened to be derailed due to abrupt mid-way policy change, is back on track with the railway ministry finally making changes crucial for the project to take off.
The long-awaited green signal has paved way for designing and manufacturing of luxury coaches of the train which may be Punjab's answer to Rajasthan's "Palace on Wheels." The delay has however helped modify plans. Now an open-air deck would be added to the coaches which would have a spa, gym, game room and health club.
"The train is expected to be a huge hit with tourists specially since it will cover destinations of interest in Punjab including places of religious importance," Geetika Kalha, principal secretary, tourism Punjab, said.
The project had hit a roadblock at the conception stage with operational costs, running up to Rs 20 lakh per trip, becoming a bone of contention between the tourism department and the railway authorities. The luxury train, whose cost is pegged at $400 a night for the tourist, was expected to be on track by December 2007.
The train, which is expected to start from Delhi, will cover Anandpur Sahib, Amritsar, Patiala, Pathankot, Ambala, Kurukshetra, Kangra, Jaipur and Agra. Aimed at high-end tourists, the train will cover most distances at night so that tourists can see places during the daytime.
"The train, besides double and single bed luxury coaches, will have facility of spa, game rooms, restaurants and an open deck which will enable the passengers to sit out in the open and enjoy the views," said Geetika.
Mid-course policy changes had led to delays and a cost escalation of nearly Rs 20 crore. Originally, the train was expected to be operationalized at Rs 30 crore but the cost has now spiralled to Rs 50 crore.
Sources in the tourism department revealed that changes have now been made in the agreement and it has been decided that the operational costs will be recovered in phases. A communication to this effect was received by the department of tourism, Punjab, from the ministry of railways last week.