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How Andhra’s business hub is becoming a travel and leisure destination

yachts sailing along Vizag coast, Photo: IANS

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Visakhapatnam, April 5 (IANS) In the bifurcated Andhra Pradesh, this coastal city discovered its new identity and is now emerging not merely as the business and technology hub but also as a travel and leisure destination.

Though in the very first year of the truncated state, cyclone Hudhud battered the city, known popularly as Vizag, it bounced back with new vigour. The rebuilt infrastructure gave a new look to the city, adjudged the third-cleanest in India last year.

Though already recognised as a key hub for being the headquarters of the Eastern Naval Command, the presence of a port, a steel plant and other industries, the city in the past did not get its due and was never branded properly. This was because, as people of the port city say, the focus of successive governments in undivided Andhra Pradesh was Hyderabad.

yachts sailing along Vizag coast

yachts sailing along Vizag coast, Photo: IANS

After the breaking up of Andhra Pradesh to carve out Telangana state with Hyderabad as its capital in 2014, Vizag found new importance. The state government launched an initiative to develop it as the country’s Fintech hub and a centre of new-age technologies. It has hosted partnership summits here for the last three years, witnessing signing of MoUs for massive investments in the state.

The government also started working on plans to develop Vizag as a travel destination. The yachting festival held on March 28-31 brought into focus the bustling city’s huge tourism potential.

The four-day festival organised by Andhra Pradesh Tourism in association with E-Factor Adventure Tourism Pvt. Ltd, saw a fleet of plush yachts descending on the Vizag shores, for the discerning enthusiasts who love engaging with lifestyle, water and adventure.

Organised with a vision to establish and put Vizag on the marine tourism map, the festival, said to be first of its kind in India, saw yachts cruising on the azure waters of the Bay of Bengal, providing sailing enthusiasts a breathtaking view of popular beaches like RK Beach, Rishikonda, Thotlakonda and Yerada. The on-board audiences were treated with activities like swimming, snorkelling, rescue demo by the Indian Navy and adrenaline-pumping displays of fly-boarding.

yachts sailing along Vizag coast

yachts sailing along Vizag coast, Photo: IANS

In the evenings when the yachts were parked at Vizag port, the audiences were entertained with musical performances.

It was the first attempt to introduce lifestyle tourism in Vizag, a key destination on the nearly 1,000-km-long coastline of the state. The organisers sold limited tickets, priced at a steep Rs 14,500 per person per day.

“Water holiday or yachting is a Richie rich, big boy’s holiday. Typically, one hour of yachting costs Rs 1 lakh in India,” Kaushik Mukherji, principal advisor to the Andhra Pradesh Ministry of Tourism, told IANS.

He believed yachting can contribute significantly to the state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). “Though only one percent of society can afford yachting, it has a huge margin,” he explained, claiming that on India’s east coast, Vizag is the only place which can offer this kind of holiday.

Mukherji was confident that two years down the line there will be people who will come to Vizag for water holidays. “Why do I need to go to Bali when I can do it in Vizag? The reasoning is being created.”

The yachting festival was one of the marketing techniques to brand Vizag. “Andhra Pradesh has no better tourism card than Vizag. It was never marketed earlier. Vizag was always consumed by the word of mouth. There was no draw towards it. I am changing the perceived value,” Mukherji said.

Explaining why Vizag is important, Mukherji pointed out that its beach mountains were not found anywhere else. Every brick at Thotlakonda beach is 2,500 years old. He believed a Buddhism circuit can be created here and marketed in countries like Sri Lanka, Taiwan, China and Japan, which always look for Buddhism products.

A view of the music performance in the evening at Vizag port

A view of the music performance in the evening at Vizag port, Photo: IANS

“Ten miles from where we are sitting (Vizag port) is the (Pakistani) Gazi submarine which can be one of the finest diving sites of the world. I can give the best dive into the submarine which was sunk during the 1971 war.”

Mukherji believed different products for different segments of the market could help tap the state’s immense tourism potential. He set the ball rolling a year ago with Vizag Music Festival followed by the balloon festival in Araku valley, a picturesque location about 100 km from Vizag.

“We have to be clear about who our target audience is. It’s the promise which I am selling. People buy promises, not destinations,” he added.

Tourism currently contributes seven percent of the state’s GDP, but Mukherji believes powerful tourism brands can increase this to 24-25 percent.

IANS

India

Taj Mahal entry fee hiked by Rs 200

Visitors who buy the Rs. 50 ticket would not be allowed to enter the main mausoleum, but would be able to move around the Taj and see the rear side, the Yamuna river front at the back.

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Taj mahal

Agra, Dec 10: The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) on Monday enforced a new ticketing system for the Taj Mahal, aimed at reducing increasing human impact on the fragile 17th-century white marble marvel.

Vasant Kumar Swarnkaar, the ASI chief in Agra, said the new ticketing system came into effect from Monday morning.

According to the ASI, visitors will now have to shell out an extra Rs 200 to enter the main mausoleum with the graves of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and his wife Mumtaz Mahal. Earlier, the domestic tourists were initially paying only Rs 50 only.

Now, the visitors who buy the Rs. 50 ticket would not be allowed to enter the main mausoleum, but would be able to move around the Taj and see the rear side, the Yamuna river front at the back.

Foreign visitors will also need to buy the Rs 200 ticket in addition to the Rs 1,100 entrance fee.

The visitors from SAARC countries will have to pay Rs. 740 instead of Rs. 540.

The National Environmental Engineering Research Institute had originally suggested two tickets, to help reduce the number of visitors to the main structure.

The tourism industry has not appreciated the increase, fearing this step could hit arrivals.

The Taj Mahal is considered one of the finest specimen of the Mughal architecture.

In 1983, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was cited as “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.”

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Beside comfort and high speed, India’s Train 18 also to be fire-proof

“As compared to steel coaches these coaches are more durable and due to light weight these trains easily accelerate and decelerate.”

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Train 18

Train 18, developed indigenously by the Integral Coach Factory (ICF), offers not only a fast and comfortable mode of transport. The engineless train also provides safety to passengers as its coaches are fitted with fire-resistance fibre composites.

“The interiors of the coach have been made up of composite materials, which are fire resistant,” ICF General Manager Sudhanshu Mani told IANS over phone from Chennai.

He said the interiors were manufactured in the country and the ICF gave sourced the fibre-reinforced plastics (FRP) from manufacturers in Chennai. “After the manufacturers delivered the FRP materials, it was fitted into the Train 18 at the ICF plant in Chennai,” he said.

The ICF General Manager said that all the panels inside the Train 18 coaches are built with composite material.

A senior railway ministry official said that the FRP has been used in the Train 18 sets to make it more power efficient and light weight which enable the train to move faster as compared to other train sets currently in service in India.

The official pointed out that the FRP materials are very light as compared to those made of steel and aluminium.

Train 18 is currently undergoing trials under the supervision of Research Designs and Standards Organisation (RDSO), Lucknow. It has successfully completed the trial upto a speed of 180 kmph.

The official said that Train 18, which is self-propelled on electric traction like metro trains, will start replacing the existing train fleet of the Shatabdi Express next year.

As per the railway ministry plans, the ICF will make six such train sets, out of which two will have sleeper coaches.

The new train has a number of features to enhance passenger comfort which include inter-connected fully-sealed gangways, automatic doors with retractable footsteps, onboard Wi-Fi and infotainment, GPS-based passenger information system, modular toilets with bio-vacuum systems, rotational seats which can be aligned in the direction of travel (available only in the executive class), roller blinds and diffused LED lighting, and disabled-friendly toilets.

Pavwan Droliaa, Managing Director of Asterix Reinforced Limited which manufactures composite materials, said that the material used inside Train 18 coaches not only makes it light but also improves its power efficiency.

“As a lightweight, high-strength, environment-friendly product, it helps in reducing the overall weight of the train coach by about 50 per cent as compared to any other train coaches,” he said.

Explaining the advantages of the composite material in the Train 18 coaches, he said that it also gives freedom of design, to make all kinds of interior and exterior parts and it also allows use of aerodynamic exterior parts, to reduce the energy consumption of the train.

He said that in case of fire these composite components do not generate poisonous gases, collapse, or spread molten material or droplets, thus keeping escape ways open for passengers to get out.

A Selvam, Executive Secretary at FRP Institute in Chennai, said over phone said that the composite material helps in reducing the maintenance costs of the railways.

He pointed out that the Indian Railways has started using modular toilets in the train made up of composites. Selvam also said that the composite material can be used for making high strength seats for train coaches.

Selvam pointed out that the composite material also aid in the dampening of vibration to reduce noise levels and improve passenger comfort.

He said, “As compared to steel coaches these coaches are more durable and due to light weight these trains easily accelerate and decelerate.”

“The composite material can also help in reducing a number of small parts as these are combined and moulded into a single piece,” Selvam added.

(Anand Singh can be contacted at [email protected])

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Train 18 likely to be launched on Dec 25 between New Delhi-Varanasi, with increased fare

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Train 18

Onboard Train-18 (Kota), Dec 3 (IANS) With the Train 18 speeding up to 180 kmph between Kota Junction and Kurlasi station during a trial on Sunday, efforts are on to launch the first indigenously-built Trainset on December 25 from New Delhi to Varanasi.

“Christmas Day also happens to be the birthday of late Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and it would be a tribute to the great statesman of the country if we manage to launch the next-generation train on that day,” a senior Railways official told IANS.

Since the input cost of the Rs 100-crore train is high, the fare structure will be also be higher than the normal fare.

However, the official added that the decision on its launch date and fare are yet to be taken as the trial is not yet complete.

According to the tentative plan, the train will start from New Delhi station at 6 a.m., and is expected to reach Varanasi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s parliamentary constituency, at 2 p.m.

For the return journey, the train will start at 2.30 p.m., from Varanasi and reach the national capital at 10.30 p.m.

It was a thrilling experience onboard Train 18 during the various trials on Sunday — including a speed run on a straight track, speed test on one degree curve at 150 kmph, and two degree curve at 140 and 150 kmph — on 113 km stretch from Kota to Kurlasi under the watchful eyes senior Railways officials as well as those from the national transporter’s Research Design and Standards Organisation.

Ladoos were distributed in the train when it clocked 180 kmph. The first sweets were offered to loco pilot Padam Singh Gurjar and his assistant Onkar Yadav.

“We are quite excited to be part of this great occasion,” Padam Singh told IANS after having the sweet.

“I feel proud to be part of this historic trial,” added Yadav.

It was a smooth ride for those inside — occupying rotating seats to match the direction of the train – as the Train 18 became the first train to touch such high speeds on the Indian rail network.

The train started its trial run at 9.30 a.m., from Kota and returned to the junction at 6 p.m., after negotiating several rivers, bridges and curves.

The Trainset does not require a locomotive as it is a self-propelled on electric traction, like metro trains.

Now the Trainset has to undergo what is called a long confirmatory run and also test its emergency braking distance before it gets a clearance from the Commissioner, Railway Safety (CRS) for commercial operations to commence.

“We are expecting the trials to be over in a week and after that we will seek CRS clearance,” said the official.

Although the speed touched 180 kmph during Sunday’s trial run, the Train-18 will only be allowed to run at a maximum speed of 160 kmph in its commercial operations.

After the successful completion of 115 kmph test run on the Bareli-Moradabad section last week, the next-generation train — indigenously developed at Chennai’s Integral Coach Factory — is required to undergo the 180 kmph trial run here till December 4.

Equipped with world class facilities, the Rs 100 crore Trainset aims to take passenger-comfort to a new level with onboard WiFi, a GPS-based information system, touch-free bio-vacuum toilets, LED lighting, mobile charging points, and a climate control system that adjusts the temperature according to occupancy and weather.

The 16-coach train will have two executive compartments with 52 seats each, and trailer coaches will have 78 seats each.

(Arun Kumar Das can be contacted at [email protected])

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