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DHR hikes Darjeeling toy train joy ride ticket prices

DHR hikes Darjeeling toy train joy ride ticket prices
A joy ride in the famed Darjeeling toy train will now cost more with the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway raising ticket prices without prior announcement. The DHR’s sudden decision has been severely criticised by both passengers and local tour operators.

Passengers who had booked tickets in advance for the Darjeeling- Ghoom to-and-fro ride (16km) were today taken by surprise when they were asked to pay as per the new rates before boarding the train.

The revised rates for the Darjeeling-Ghoom-Darjeeling ride on the steam engine-run train is Rs1,165 per head, while a ride on the diesel engine-pulled train will cost Rs695. This is a massive increase from the earlier rate of Rs400 per passenger for both steam and diesel engine rides. Further, chartered rides in two coaches will now cost Rs55,000, up from Rs22,000.

DHR officials in Darjeeling said they were notified of the price raise late on February 17 and the new rates became effective from the following day. But DHR passengers, most of whom are tourists, and even local tour operators knew nothing about the development until they were on the verge of boarding the train this morning.

An irritated passenger said, “I had already purchased a ticket for Rs400 and was shocked to see the notice asking passengers to pay the increased rates. We were not informed about the possibility of ticket prices increasing when I purchased the ticket a month ago. I think this is sheer irresponsibility on the part of the authorities.”

Raju Adhikari and his family from Kolkata had to satisfy themselves by going for a diesel ride as the steam option was too expensive for them. “I had heard the fare to be Rs400 per passenger. But now I am being told of the new rates, which I cannot afford. Still, we will take the diesel engine option tomorrow as I have promised my family a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Raju as he made his way to the ticket counter.

The DHR offers steam engine rides thrice a day in the afternoons, and a diesel engine ride in the mornings. Diesel trains also operate between Darjeeling and Kurseong twice a day.

Reacting to the new ticket prices, Darjeeling Association of Tour Agents general secretary Pradeep Lama said, “It is a massive increase even if one might try to justify the new rates by arguing the DHR has been accorded world heritage status. Most tourists come here on pre-planned budgets and suddenly asking them to pay more will throw their

holiday plans haywire.”  DHR area officer Narendra Mohan meanwhile, 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-sustainable in order to provide the best of services to our customers,” he said.

When asked why the DHR did not make a formal announcement, Mohan said doing so is not mandatory although notices informing about the revision had been put up at the Darjeeling railway station premises. Sources in the DHR said the revised rates would help in providing better services to passengers as also to set up better facilities in the station. “We are trying to improve the station’s appearance by setting up toilets, refreshment joints and souvenir stalls. And as the DHR is currently running on deficit, the price increase will hopefully help in covering some expenses,” he said.

But in spite of the steep increase in ticket prices, the enthralling experience of a joy ride in the endearing Darjeeling toy train got the better of passengers’ purses, with most of them queuing up for joy rides today on both steam and diesel versions amid reports of just two cancellations. (EOIC)

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