Published on : Monday, January 8, 2018
The parliamentary standing committee on Indian railways made some scathing remarks on the “shortsighted vision of the largest transporter.”
Indian Railways, including IRCTC, came in for some criticism from the committee for not “augmenting its services to meet tourist and pilgrims demand exclusively.”
Also, Indian railways are doing nothing to designate some top religious tourist stations, which has asked the largest transporter to connect popular tourist places and link the Indian states with immense religious pilgrim potential first, besides linking Shirdi and Tirupati with more train services.
The committee, chaired by MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay, cautioned the Indian rail ministry not to take the tourism and pilgrimage sector too lightly as it may prove to be a hidden treasure for railways to increase revenue if explored judiciously.
The committee noted that there are many tourist and pilgrimage destinations are already connected by rail.
However, states having high potential for tourism like Jammu & Kashmir, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, northern Kerala and Northeast states witness minimal presence of railways.
The committee also noted that Tirupati and Shirdi, which are the most popular pilgrimage station and attract large number of people, are only connected by two express trains and one weekly special train.
Meanwhile, the committee also pulled up the Indian railways for giving freeloaders complimentary tickets to travel in luxury trains. These luxury trains are running with occupancy of just 30 per cent or less.
The committee members in their report have lamented that the provision of complimentary travel is continuing on these luxury trains on the recommendation of either Railway Board or IRCTC or state tourism development corporation.
The railways run five luxury trains, including Maharaja Express, Golden Chariot, Royal Rajasthan on Wheels, Deccan Odyssey and Palace on Wheels.
The committee says ‘Palace on Wheels’ and ‘Royal Rajasthan on Wheels’, were the favourites of the freeloaders, most of whom had been permitted to travel free by railway top officials. The committee said it was surprised to find that on the Maharaja Express, the Railway Board itself permitted 21 top level railway officers to travel free from 2012 to 2016.