Bombay to Goa 2019
Travelling from Dadar to Madgaon, author R Raj Rao shares his experience of the IRCTC’s Vistadome Coach on Jan Shatabdi Express
The Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) recently introduced the Vistadome Coach on the Jan Shatabdi Express from Dadar to Madgaon. This was introduced on Konkan Railway because of the region’s scenic beauty. The tourism potential of the route is not lost on the railways. In 2017, they had introduced the all air- conditioned Tejas Express, complete with WiFi connectivity. And now it is the Vistadome Coach on the Jan Shatabdi.
The air-conditioned Vistadome Coach with a 2x2 seating capacity of just 40, gives passengers ample leg room, like business class on a flight. It has giant-sized windows with a dome-shaped sun roof that offers a resplendent view of the sky. Of course this is better enjoyed in the monsoon than in the summer, when the weather is cloudy and drizzly, and there is lush greenery all around. Waterfalls, such as the one between Ukshi and Ratnagiri stations are also more majestic during the rains.
The Vistadome Coach has rotatable push-back seats that can be swivelled to face the direction in which the train is running. This spares passengers of the odd feeling that they are going backwards. Then it has a glass-backed viewing area that affords a panoramic view of the rail track and the landscape, facilitated by the fact that the coach is attached to the end of the train; it is the last compartment. A friend with whom I travelled on the train joked. “The viewing area resembles the smoking rooms that one finds in airports,” he said. This is true. Unfortunately, though, smoking is banned on trains all over the world.
The Vistadome Coach has two sleek washrooms, both Western style, with designer tiles and elegant sanitary fittings. The toilets are vacuum-controlled bio toilets, as in planes, that collect waste in a tray rather scatter it on the tracks. ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan!’ An end to khule me sauch!
Though the IRCTC is to be commended for starting the Vistadome Coach, it is a shame that it is poorly maintained. True, the coach glides along the tracks, like a multi-axle bus. But several of the windows have fogged up on account of the vagaries of the weather, and have turned opaque. This robs passengers of the pleasures of the journey, for which they have paid. Such a thing would never have happened in Europe! It is incumbent upon the railways to carry out periodic checks on trains and replace damaged parts with new ones. One does not travel on the Vistadome Coach merely to get from point A to point B. One travels on it to savour every minute of the journey.
The fare from Dadar to Madgaon on the Vistadome Coach is a little over Rs 2,000, which is way cheaper than the air fare. However, unlike the Tejas Express, the fare does not include food and water that has to be separately purchased.
The IRCTC, I am told, plans to introduce a similar Vistadome Coach on the delightful Neral-Matheran route. But that train being a narrow gauge toy train (or matchbox train), it will obviously not have the same spaciousness of the Vistadome Coach on the Jan Shatabdi Express. The Jan Shatabdi Express is the ideal train for the Vistadome Coach. It’s a day’s journey, commencing in Mumbai at 5.25 am and arriving in Goa at 2.10 pm. On the day I travelled on the train, it reached its destination half an hour before schedule, a miracle of sorts on Konkan Railway, where the prevalence of a single line usually causes inordinate delays.
Puneities, who wish to travel to Goa on the Vistadome Coach this summer, can board it at Panvel station daily at 6.30 am. A journey on the coach is certainly worth its weight in gold.