Track Record: Luxury Mumbai-Goa Train Service Tejas Express Has Been Launched
While air-conditioned local trains may be a while away and the weather doesn’t seem like it’s getting better anytime soon, it might be a good idea to make a getaway to the relatively cooler shores of Goa, to which you can now travel to by rail, in style. The Mumbai-Goa Tejas Express, which was officially launched yesterday, is being marketed as a ‘luxury train service‘ and though ticket prices are almost as high as flights booked in advance, it’s a way more comfortable last-minute travel option than an overnight bus. The train shuttles between Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and Karmali in Goa.
The Tejas Express boasts airline-style reclining leather seats. Like in a plane, each of its 13 passenger coaches – it has one 56-seater executive AC chair car and a dozen 78-capacity AC chair cars – are equipped with LED touch-screen TVs loaded with infotainment content including games and photos; USB charging ports; free wi-fi; staff call buttons; and individual reading lights. Other fancy features include graffiti-proof exteriors, automatic doors, CCTV cameras, tea and coffee vending machines, a menu by an unnamed ‘celebrity’ chef and vacuum bio-toilets.
All these amenities come with a hefty price tag. Tickets cost Rs2,525 (without food) and Rs2,680 per person (with food) for the Executive AC chair car and Rs1,155 (without food) and Rs1,280 (with food) per person for the AC chair car. Fares change in the monsoon. Though the Tejas can travel as fast as 200 kms per hour, owing to track restrictions, it will run at speeds of 130kms to 160kms per hour and can get from Mumbai to Goa and vice versa in eight and a half hours. It leaves Mumbai at 5am and reaches Karmali at 1.30pm and starts its return journey from Goa at 2.30pm and reaches CST at 11pm, with stops at Dadar, Thane, Panvel, Ratnagiri and Kudal. This is about the same time taken by the Jan Shatabdi Express, tickets for which are approximately 20 per cent cheaper.
Travel time on the Tejas Express will increase by an hour and a half during the monsoon, which the railways have said will be between Saturday, June 10 and Tuesday, October 31. During that time, the time table will change from five days a week (Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday) to three days (Monday, Wednesday and Saturday for trains leaving Mumbai and Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday for trains leaving Goa).
In a classic case of #thisiswhywecanthavenicethings, a window of the slick train was smashed over the weekend. And already some passengers have expressed concerns over the timings, which would mean sacrificing an entire day in travel as opposed to an overnight trip, which could be spent (at least trying) to catch up on sleep. The timing is what some attributed the under-performance of the double-decker Mumbai-Goa train, which the Tejas Express is said to replace. The fares too might be a deterrent, according to some potential passengers, a sentiment echoed by members of the railways. However the ministry seems confident the Tejas will be a runaway success and plans to run the service on the Delhi-Chandigarh and Mumbai-Ahmedabad routes.
One aspect even they aren’t too happy with is the content of the infotainment systems, which at present includes a series of photographs of tourist spots of Taiwan as opposed to the treasures of the Konkan. They feel the food menu could boast more regional cuisine dishes as well. Right now along with croissants and samosas, you can order paneer or chicken Kolhapuri and Malvani chicken curry.