Railways has decided to convert 200 saloons into 10 luxury tourist trains to be run by the IRCTC in a bid to regulate the use of the colonial era-style carriages and generate additional revenue for the national transporter, sources said on Friday.
Conceived initially as inspection cars to be exclusively used by railway officials to visit far flung areas, these saloons comprise of two bedrooms, a lounge, a pantry, a toilet and a kitchen which are built to facilitate stay for up to five days. "While a designated number of saloons will be kept for use of railway officials for inspection, 200 of them will be turned over to IRCTC and will be operated as tourist trains. Upon conversion, around ten such trains can be put into service for public use," the source said.
Last year, amid concerns over misuse of these saloons by officials, Railway minister Piyush Goyal had given up the use of his own personal ones, calling them "trappings of a colonial mindset". He had also urged zones to give up saloons for public use.
Sources said the Railway Board has prepared a set of instructions for its zones to "strictly regulate" the number and use of such saloons.
It also said that these should be used primarily for inspection purposes with focus on safety.
Besides, the saloons and observation car for zonal general managers, each zone will have two additional carriages for inspection purposes only, the Board is learnt to have decided.
Each railway division will have a self-propelled inspection car with windows at both ends.
As per the instructions, the remaining should be used for "premium tourist traffic" to earn "additional revenue" for the railways.
Railways has a total of 336 saloon cars across railway zones, among which many have already been condemned. Around 62 are air-conditioned.
IRCTC ran the first privately-occupied saloon coach, complete with air-conditioned rooms, valet service and attached bathroom in March last year. The cost of chartering the saloon was around Rs 2 lakh.
Once routes are finalised, the details will be made available on the IRCTC website for bookings of these saloons, sources said.