India’s luxury train operations hit by Covid, occupancy levels still low
India’s luxury trains, like the Maharaja Express, Palace on Wheels, Deccan Odyssey, and Golden Chariot, have seen their operations adversely impacted because of Covid. Occupancy, though, continues to remain an issue across most of them, even now when operations have restarted.
As per a recent response by Minister of Railways Ashwini Vasihnaw in the Rajya Sabha, the cumulative earnings from these four elite trains stood at ₹19.89 crore till November of this fiscal as against the previous two years when Covid had hit operations.
“Operation of luxury tourist trains has been adversely impacted due to Covid-19,” he said.
Of these four super-elite trains, the Maharaja Express operates on five routes that are open between October and April, with fares ranging between ₹2 and 5 lakh.
The Palace on Wheels, which runs till September through April, has 7 stops throughout the 7-night, 8-day voyage, and travellers on board are taken on city tours. Tickets are priced upwards of ₹3.60 lakh.
Deccan Odyssey has tickets priced from ₹4.20 lakh onward and travels on six routes for seven nights and eight days, running from October to April.
And the Golden Chariot, travels for seven nights and eight days from October to March, with ticket prices starting at ₹16,000 per night.
According to data presented before the Parliament, Maharaja Express resumed operations in FY22 with three trips that had occupancy levels of more than 82.54 per cent and generated revenues of ₹3.48 crore. This year, till November, it made seven trips with 37.93 per cent occupancy and generated revenues of ₹14.34 crore. It had no reported operations in 2020–21.
Meanwhile, Palace on Wheels operations were hit for two years—FY21 and FY22—because of Covid. It made 5 trips till November this year with an occupancy of 38.29 per cent and a revenue of ₹4.85 crore/
Deccan Odyssey is yet to resume operations post-Covid, as per the documents in the Upper House.
On the other hand, Golden Chariot made two trips with 34 per cent occupancy in FY21 and reported a revenue of ₹0.39 crore. It did not have operations last fiscal. And so far this fiscal (till November), it made one trio with 27.5 per cent occupancy and a revenue of ₹0.70 crore.
“Numbers are expected to pick up as more foreign tourists come in,” a railway official said.
Bharat Gaurav Trains
Vaishnaw said in his response that all luxury tourist trains have been brought under the ambit of Bharat Gaurav trains, and under this policy, the service providers have full flexibility to decide themes, itineraries, and tariffs as per market demand.
Indian Railways provides assistance for operationalising these trains.
There are no plans to discontinue any of these trains because of poor occupancy, the Minister said.