Badal gives nod to Punjab's 'Palace on Wheels'

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Chandigarh, Mar 4 (UNI) In a significant move to boost tourism potential in the state, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal accorded in principle approval for the implementation of Rs 40 crore Train Tourism Project in collaboration with Singapore based Orient Express Hotels.

A decision to this effect was taken during a meeting between Mr Badal and Mr Tom Evers Swindell, Regional Director (Asia) Orient Express Group of Hotels, Trains and Cruises, Singapore here late last evening.

The proposed train would be on the lines of the prestigious 'Palace on Wheels', equipped with all facilities required to woo high-end tourists especially young NRIs.

Mr Tom called on the Chief Minister and put forth a comprehensive proposal evincing keen interest to participate in the Train Tourism Project and informed that he had visited various tourist spots in Punjab and discovered that there was a tremendous potential of Train Tourism in the state.

He also mentioned that at present, Orient Express Hotels, Singapore was operating 50 luxury hotels, restaurants, tourist trains and river cruises in 25 countries including England, USA, Russia, Australia, France, Italy, Argentina and South Africa.

''The company is keen to share its worldwide experience with the state government for this new venture,'' Mr Tom said.

Appreciating this gesture the Chief Minister directed the Tourism Department to chalk out an action plan and workout the modalities in this regard.

Referring the untapped potential of heritage tourism in the state Mr Badal said the Punjab Government was already contemplating to develop religious tourism circuits to cover Sri Anandpur Sahib to Sri Damdama Sahib (Talwandi Sabo), Sri Fatehgarh Sahib, Kapurthala and Amritsar.

The proposed tourist train would carry 12 luxuriously furnished passenger AC coaches and each coach would have 3 coupes. Three lounge cars with the facilities of game room, a beauty saloon, ayurvedic massage parlour, a health club, a library, a computer centre, a curio shop and a business and communication centre would also be attached along with two restaurant cars and one kitchen car with the facility of multi-cuisine restaurants and relaxed seating arrangement.

The Central Government had already approved the proposal and remaining formalities would also be completed shortly, said Mr Badal.

UNI PS JN SV HT1457

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