Karnataka’s Palace on Wheels: The Golden Chariot
The Golden Chariot, Karnataka’s own palace on wheels will start operating from March 03, according to the Deccan Herald. This is a wonderful step in promoting Karnataka to the outside world. At a price tag of Rs one lakh per ticket for each of the 100 seats, it is beyond the budget of most local travelers. And maybe, the railways wants to keep it that way: exclusive and out of reach. The railway minister has openly admitted that he would be happy even if they manage to get a 30% occupancy on the train.
In its 800 km stretch, the train that cost a cool 30 crore will cover Badami, Aihole, Pattadkal, Belur, Halebid, Hampi, and other such places of architectural splendor. Am not quite sure if south kanara makes the grade though.
The train has already stirred up protests with its proposal to have a bar on the train. However, for once, the Government is being practical in its approach and is not accomodating the wishes of the cultural brigade. When liquor is available even at food outlets in the state, it doesn’t make much sense not to have it on the train. Of course, it would defintely be a matter of concern if the spirits were available close to the driver’s cabin :)
For people who complain that such a train should be made available to the common man, I would say that such indulgences are best left to people who have the money for it, and who do not want the ‘other side’ of India to come in their way through their cruise. I have traveled the length and breadth of this country, most times on a shoestring budget, and believe me, it is a lot more fun that way. You get to mix with the local populace, understand their culture, and just take in the smells of the region. In conducted tours, one is more likely to stick to one’s group without ever wanting to be adventurous. As long as you know a little bit of Hindi, most parts of India are accessible, except for one state, and again, only parts of it. It would not take too much of your intelligence to know the state I am hinting at.
In case you are thinking that this a case of sour grapes, I have to admit that given a free ticket or at 1/10th that price tag, I would definitely try out the Golden Chariot. At its current price, it does not make any sense for a resident Indian to take the journey. I could have an all-India trip and still come back with money to spare.
The next luxury train to be flagged off will be the Garib Rath, an AC luxury apparently for the masses. At a discounted price tag of 25% less than the normal AC fare (which class?), am not sure how much of the Garib junta will be boarding this rath. As of now, I can only imagine the young software turks from Bangalore and Hyderabad making up the queue.
The state road transport has done remarkably well in the years since they made the turnaround. Hopefully, the railways too will make the grade.