Railways eyes Rs 350 crore profit from Kalka-Shimla toy train route
Officials said that one of the old coaches of the Shimla toy train has almost been upgraded, and four more will follow with large screens for on-board entertainment.“The (first) coach will be available for booking within 10 days. We are yet to take a final call on the fare,” said DC Sharma, the divisional railway manager of Ambala, under which the Kalka-Shimla route comes.Updated: Dec 03, 2018 09:06 IST
Indian Railways is in the process of revamping the heritage Kalka-Shimla toy train route — famous for its 102 tunnels — with a vista dome coach that offers panoramic views, an infotainment system, a hop-on hop-off option, and a faster average speed, according to senior officials familiar with the matter.
The need for this revamp has arisen from the fact that the route is incurring an annual loss of Rs 70 crore per year, railway official familiar with the matter said. Officials now believe that instead of cutting losses, the changes could help them get an annual turnover of Rs 500 crore per annum, which would mean a profit of about Rs 350 crore
“The route certainly has the potential of Rs 500 crore - we just need to market it properly. The upgrade of the first vista dome coach has been done locally, with an investment of Rs 10 lakh. We are meeting tour operators next week to discuss how we can sell the train,” said DC Sharma, the divisional railway manager of Ambala, under which the Kalka-Shimla route comes.
With a glass roof and large windows that offer a view of the hills, officials expect the vista dome to be in high demand during the winter. They said that one of the old coaches has almost been upgraded, and four more will follow with large screens for on-board entertainment.“The (first) coach will be available for booking within 10 days. We are yet to take a final call on the fare,” Sharma said.
“This line is our heritage, and we have to preserve it. The world over, such train and routes are in high demand and a major source of revenue. The fare for vista dome is likely to be around Rs 700 per passenger and fare of other trains are also likely to be rationalised,” said a railway official who asked not to be named.
Indian Railways runs six trains on the 94km route, and the fare starts at as low as Rs 25 for general class and goes up to ~ 665 for First class. In July, the railways started a hop-on hop-off service in which passengers can alight at any station on the way and take the next train. This will promote tourism at these locations on the route and draw more vendors to the stations, said the official quoted above. Another plan in the works is increasing the speed of the corridor to reduce travel time. A study for this has been completed .
The Guinness Book of Rail Facts & Feats has described the Kalka-Shimla as the “greatest narrow-gauge engineering in India”. The route opened for traffic on November 9, 1903, has 18 stations — the most famous of them is Barog, named after engineer Colonel Barog, who was the incharge of the construction of the first unsuccessful tunnel near the site.