THE Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) has raised ticket prices of the heritage toy train with a focus on improving services. A DHR spokesman said on Friday that the revised rates, notified on February 17 and put into effect from the following day, were aimed at providing better amenities to passengers in terms of improved infrastructure.
“We have plans to improve the station’s appearance by setting up toilets, refreshment joints and souvenir stalls,” the spokesman said, adding with the DHR currently running on deficit, the price hike will help in covering some expenses.
As per the decision, fare for the Darjeeling-Ghoom up-down ride (16km) will now be (Darjeeling-Ghoom-Darjeeling) steam engine-run train – Rs 1,165/each and the diesel engine-pulled train – Rs 695/each – up from the previous Rs 400/each for both steam and diesel loco rides.
Similarly, chartered rides in two coaches (both steam/diesel versions) will now cost Rs 55,000, up from Rs 22,000. Darjeeling Association of Tour Agents General Secretary Pradeep Lama said, “It is a massive increase even if one seeks to justify the new rates by arguing the DHR has been accorded world heritage status. Most tourists come here on pre-planned budgets.”
The DHR spokesman said the decision to upwardly revise ticket prices was made nearly a year ago since the UNESCO-conferred heritage train does not have a separate budget.
“The decision has not been taken all of a sudden. It must be noted that the DHR does not have a separate budget. Our objective is to make the DHR self-sustaining to provide the best of services to our customers,” he said.
Objecting to the hike, a passenger said: “I had already purchased a ticket for Rs 400 and now am shocked to find a notice asking passengers to pay the increased rates. We were not informed about the possibility of ticket price hike when I had booked a month ago.”
The DHR steam loco meanders through hill routes three times a day in the afternoon while the diesel engine plies in the morning hours. Diesel trains also operate between Darjeeling and Kurseong twice a day.