New Kaziranga Express for North-east?

NEW DELHI: There is a good news for those who are charmed by the northeast and want to explore its rich wildlife: The Ministry of Railways is working on a proposal to roll out a ‘Kaziranga Express’ for Assam.

Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain, who is an MP from Assam, mooted the proposal for a ‘Kaziranga Express’ on the lines of ‘Tiger Express’ which was launched in June this year for Bandhavgarh and Kanha National Parks in Madhya Pradesh, a Ministry official said.

The Kaziranga National Park is a World Heritage Site and is known to host 70 per cent of the world’s one­horned rhinoceroses. It is also home to a large number of tigers, elephants, wild water buffaloes and swamp deer.

Anurag Singh, MD, Assam Tourism Development Corporation (ATDC), said, “At present, the project is at a very nascent stage. We are working on an itinerary. We need to work on a model which we can sustain for a long time. Our report is likely to be finalised within this month.”

Besides Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary, Kamakhya temple, Manas National Park and tea gardens of Assam, a road trip to Shillong could be part of the itinerary, according to IRCTC, which will work along with ATDC to finalise the plan.

Tourists will be offered a complete package, which will include rail journey, food, hotel, local commute, jungle safari, among others. Like the ‘Tiger Express’ launched on World Environment Day, this train, too, will have semi­luxury coaches and a dining car. ATDC’s focus on a “sustainable model” is significant in the context of poor occupancy seen by ‘Tiger Express’ earlier this year, which had to ply with a little over 20 passengers, resulting in huge financial losses.

A dedicated train for north­east is in line with Prime Minister’s promise of reducing isolation of north­eastern states through its pro­active ‘Act East Policy’.

Soon after taking charge as MoS, Gohain had told PTI, “I am from the northeast. These states are hilly region. So, ensuring rail connectivity is a difficult task, but our government  has promised to provide rail connectivity to all north-eastern states by 2020 and we will work towards the goal.”