The Telegraph
Monday , June 23 , 2014
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Profit poser on AC lounge

Train passengers have to wait longer to enjoy the comfort of the dream air-conditioned executive lounge at Patna Junction.

The station project, which entails development of a 100-seat lounge offering an array of state-of-the-art facilities and was to be executed by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited (IRCTC) and Indian Railways on a public-private partnership mode, has failed to take off. Patna was among 50 stations across the country, where the lounges, on the lines of those at airports, were to be built.

The agencies refused to take up the project, claiming it was not financially viable, as the implementing agency had to collect the user charge for five years only. IRCTC, Patna, has requested the railways to extend the time period of running the lounge to nine years.

A senior IRCTC official said: “Investors, who would have funded the project, said it was impossible to earn their money back within five years.”

IRCTC had floated the tender for the project after a pre-bid in March, 2013, but the investors stepped back. The model of the lounge was drawn up and was scheduled to go operational by January, 2014.

The project was first floated by then railway minister Dinesh Trivedi in March 2012. The New Delhi railway station got its dream lounge opposite platform number 16 on the Ajmeri gate side in August 2013.

The IRCTC lounge at Patna Junction, the first-of-its-kind executive lounge in the state, would have offered passengers facilities on a par with airport lounges but at a fee. A 3,500sqft space was earmarked for the Rs 2-crore project on the first floor of the junction on the Karbighaiya end. Another room providing meet-and-greet service could be used for small conferences with PowerPoint presentation facility.

Once complete, passengers in transit could freshen up, sip tea, coffee and cold drinks and even grab a quick bite. People opting for the wash-and-change service could get quality toiletries like laundered towels and shower kits.

The IRCTC official said: “We have written a letter to the Railway Board’s corporate office, requesting an extension in the time period of running the lounge from five years to nine years.”

Passengers would be able to rest in the dormitories. The lounge would have a television, music system, sofa-cum-bed, phone and Wi-Fi-enabled computer/laptop. Passengers can book these facilities over phone in advance.”

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