India launches ultra-luxury Maharaja train service

KOLKATA, March 23, 2010 (AFP) – India has launched its most luxurious and expensive train service yet, seeking to attract well-heeled foreign rail enthusiasts prepared to pay the minimum 800-dollars-a-night price tag. For most visitors, rail travel in India is an indispensable part of any holiday, although an ability to overlook the often filthy toilets and deal with basic comfort and crowded carriages is required.

The backers of the new service, which began its maiden journey from Kolkata to New Delhi on Saturday, have made every effort to ensure passengers get to see the country glide past the window with a minimum of inconvenience.

The specially built new train accommodates just 84 passengers, has suites with private bathrooms and plasma televisions, two restaurants serving Indian and Western food, a bar, card tables and an observation lounge.

“It’s travel like royalty. You get treated like a king that’s the whole idea,” promoter Thomas Thottathil told AFP.

Even the suspension has been designed to ensure a smooth ride on the sometimes rickety Indian lines and the 23 carriages have all been fitted with air conditioning and carpet throughout.

Prices start at 800 dollars for the most b