Travel in style: An assistant makes a bed in the luxurious Maharaja train
INDIA has launched its most luxurious and expensive train service yet, seeking to attract well-heeled foreign rail enthusiasts prepared to pay the minimum $800 (£535)-a-night price tag.
The new service began its maiden journey from Kolkata to New Delhi on Saturday (March 20).
The specially built new train accommodates just 84 passengers, has suites with private bathrooms and plasma televisions, two restaurants serving Indian and Western food, a bar, card tables and an observation lounge. “It’s travel like royalty. You get treated like a king - that’s the whole idea,” promoter Thomas Thottathil told reporters. Even the suspension has been designed to ensure a smooth ride on the sometimes rickety Indian lines and the 23 carriages have all been fitted with air conditioning and carpet throughout. Prices start at $800 for the most basic deluxe cabin and rise up to $2,500 (£1,673) a night for the presidential suite - which occupies an entire carriage and includes two cabins with double beds and a toilet with a bathtub. The new Express joins a fleet of other luxury trains plying India’s railway network, including the Deccan Odyssey in Maharashtra, the Palace on Wheels in Rajasthan and the Golden Chariot in Karnataka.
India’s vast railway system, a legacy of British colonial rule, carries 18.5 million passengers every day in varying degrees of comfort - a basic ticket on a 24-hour journey from Kolkata to Delhi can cost as little as $10 (£6.7). The advantage of the new service, say its promoters, is that the Maharajas’ Express will travel throughout India, whereas the other services are restricted to individual states. Its first journey will be a week-long trip from Kolkata to New Delhi, via stops including the holy city of Varanasi and the Taj Mahal in Agra, but another itinerary will take it to Mumbai. One of its first passengers was Frederik Vermenlen, from the Netherlands, who has travelled across much of the world by train. “It’s a wonderful venture to show India in a such a romantic fashion and with such modern comforts,” he told reporters. Other guests on the only partially booked maiden journey were mostly from Britain, but included others from the US, Russia and China. The venture is a public-private partnership between the state-run Indian railways and Indian travel group Cox & Kings, with total investment estimated at Rs600m ($13m/£8.7m).
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