The seven-day Palace on Wheels train service was started in 1982 to give travelers a chance to experience regal luxury. The train starts from Delhi and travels through Jaipur, Sawai Madhopur, Chittorgarh, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Bharatpur and Agra. Apart from 14 saloons, each having four cabins with attached bath and shower, Palace on Wheels has two restaurant-cum-kitchen cars offering traditional Indian, Continental and Chinese cuisines and a well-stocked bar. The newly introduced spa saloon offers ayurvedic massage. Other services include laundry and doctor on request. Souvenirs and gift items bearing the insignia of Palace on Wheels and a coffee table book on the history of the train are also available.
Sources associated with the train's operations attribute the falling numbers to non-aggressive marketing and indifference of the officers concerned. "It is a sign of complacence. Most of the officers believe that Palace on Wheels has become a big global brand, thus it need no more marketing. Every year when it chugs off except the regular bookings nobody takes interest," said a department source on the condition of anonymity.
The number of staff in this train is merely 50 against the sanctioned staff of 65. "Earlier, officers handling the operations of Palace on wheels, tour packages and Royal Rajasthan on wheels were different but for a few years all the three things are handled by one officer," said a source.
However, footfalls have sadly been falling. The number of passengers traveled in Palace on Wheels till December, 2013 were 1321, December, 2012 it 2356, December, 2011 it was 2883, December, 2010 it remained 2363 while in December 2009 it was 2699 as per the figures available with RTDC.
Likewise, the number of passengers traveled in Royal Rajasthan on wheels till December, 13 were 397, December, 2012 were 950
Tej Singh Rathore, president of RTDC employees' union, said, "Both the trains have been the most sought after by the foreign as well as Indian tourists. The declining number of tourists is certainly a matter of concern and authorities should come forward with measures and strategies to ensure that the numbers go up."
As Royal Rajasthan on wheels will run upto March 16 while Palace on Wheels till April 1 in this season the authorities have introduced a discount of 10 percent to lure tourists. "The month of March has shown some good signs and we will certainly get a good response of the discount," said an officer.