After freight and passenger segments, the railways is set to begin a third segment dedicated to the tourism sector and launch a set of around 190 theme-based trains called Bharat Gaurav trains, Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw announced on Tuesday.
The minister, addressing a press conference, also said that the idea of running Bharat Gaurav trains originated from Prime Minister Narendra Modi who recommended theme-based train services so that people in India can understand, appreciate as well as take forward the country’s heritage.
Here’s all we know about these trains and how they will boost tourism in the country.
Bharat Gaurav trains
A total of 190 trains or 3,033 coaches have been identified for the Bharat Gaurav trains. The purpose of the train service is to showcase India’s rich cultural heritage and history to the world.
Vaishnaw said these trains could be run both by the private sector as well as the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation.
Railway Minister Shri @AshwiniVaishnaw announces introduction of ‘Bharat Gaurav Trains’
— Ministry of Railways (@RailMinIndia) November 23, 2021
He stated that individuals to societies, tour operators and even state governments could apply to take these trains and run them on a special circuit based on a theme.
And the process for applying for such a train is simple: Register online with a one-time fee of Rs 1 lakh.
According to an Indian Express report, the parameters of the scheme are that the operator has to offer sightseeing, food, local transport (taxi etc), hotels at stopover places, onboard entertainment and such things. The arrangement can be for two to 10 years.
These trains would not run on fixed timetables and the fare of these trains would be practically decided by tour operators but the railways will ensure that there is no abnormality in the prices.
So far, some state governments including Rajasthan, Odisha, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu governments have shown interest in these Bharat Gaurav trains.
Similar trains chugging along
The IRCTC is already running the Ramayana train circuit, which takes passengers to visit important places related to the life of Lord Ram like Ayodhya, Chitrakoot, Sitamarhi, in a span of 17 days. The special train has a fare of Rs 1,02,095 per passenger for AC first class and Rs 82,950 for AC second class. The fares include the cost of food and other services.
The Railways is also planning a gurdwara train circuit, which will connect the prominent gurdwaras across the country. These are to be called the Gurukripa trains.
Other countries too have similar themed-trains. For instance, Japan runs the Pokémon with You train. The service, running from 2012, was conceived to bring smiles back to children after the area’s earthquake in 2011. Inside, no two seats look the same, while each carriage depicts traditional landscapes and symbols found across the Pokémon universe.
In Spain, there's the Cervantes Train that departs from Madrid and arrives in the city of Alcalá de Henares, the birthplace of the most famous Spanish writer of all time: Miguel de Cervantes. Even the journey itself is interesting as various actors in 17th-century costume accompany the travellers. When you arrive you can visit iconic places in Alcalá such as the Calle Mayor, the University, the Cathedral and, of course, the home of the author of Don Quixote.
Tourism in India
Tourism in India is important for the country's economy and is growing rapidly. The World Travel and Tourism Council reported that in 2020, the travel & tourism industry’s contribution to the GDP was US$ 121.9 billion and this is expected to reach US$ 512 billion by 2028. In India, the industry’s direct contribution to the GDP is expected to record an annual growth rate of 10.35 percent between 2019 and 2028.
Also, the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2019 ranked India 34th out of 140 countries overall, showing India’s efforts to improve in the field.
With inputs from agencies