In order to offer an elite travelling experience, the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), which is the catering, tourism and online ticketing operator of the Indian railways, has rolled out saloon coaches for the public. Early in the year, Ashwani Lohani, while presiding a meeting of the Railway Board, decided to make saloon coaches available to the public. In total, the Railways has 336 saloon cars, 62 of which are fully air-conditioned. The coach can be chartered for around Rs 2,00,000.
The saloon cars can accommodate two families for up to five days; and contains two spacious air-conditioned bedrooms with an attached bathroom, a dining-cum-hall, a kitchen, and a designated valet. Previously, the coaches were available only to railway officials, who availed the facility to reach far-flung areas not sufficiently connected by road or air.
In its maiden journey, the coaches, which housed six travelers, were attached to the Jammu Mail express train, which runs from the Old Delhi Railway station to Katra in Jammu and Kashmir. "This will be an all-inclusive tour where guests will be offered all the comfort of a hotel. Exclusive staff will be available for services on board. Railway also provides one AC attendant and one saloon attendant for ensuring hassle-free travel,"an IRCTC official said.
The saloons can be booked directly from the official IRCTC website. A railway representative said, "We have allowed saloon to be booked by any passenger. It would be added as an additional coach to the existing mail/express train on demand after paying the prescribed rate. "However, one must be willing to spend a hefty amount, which is approximately eighteen times of first class fares, in order to avail the luxury.
Last week, IRCTC had announced the launch of a new payment system "IRCTC-iPay", which will help alleviate troubles faced by travelers while booking train tickets online. The service, which will become operational by August 18th, will also make the refund procedure simpler.