On June 26, 2021, Indian Railways' Central Railway zone restored the services of the Deccan Express Special train, running between Mumbai and Pune. The authorities have equipped the Mumbai-Pune-Mumbai Deccan Express train with a 44-seater Vistadome, a state-of-the-art, air-conditioned luxury rail coach with large windows, a glass roof and rotatable and pushback seats, for an improved passenger experience along Maharashtra’s scenic Western Ghats especially in the monsoon for the very first time.
“Passengers can enjoy unhindered views of rivers, valleys, waterfalls while experiencing the scenic beauty of the Western Ghats,” read a part of railway minister Piyush Goyal’s tweet. It was accompanied by photos of passengers from the inaugural run showcasing people capturing the rain-soaked greenery of the Western ghats making it a thrilling journey.
All about the Vistadome coach experience
Among the 44 people who were part of the inaugural run was 26-year-old product developer Ashish Sharma from Kalyan, Mumbai. A rail enthusiast, Ashish had bookmarked the date for the first run of the Deccan Express with the special coach ever since it was announced, a few weeks ago. So, when the bookings for the Vistadome opened on the IRCTC (Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation) website on June 25, 2021, at 8 am, he was quick to book a seat for himself on the Mumbai to Pune train. “In the recent few years, I have never missed an inaugural run of a train, if it is starting from the Central Railways zone,” he informs Zee Zest.
Ashish describes the Mumbai-Pune Deccan Express journey as an adventure. “I hopped in the train from Kalyan, and completed the journey till Pune. The rail route covers the beautiful landscape between Karjat to Lonavala – which comes to life during the monsoon - views so spectacular that they leave you spellbound. Both adults and children were either glued to their seats or standing at the big glass observation window at one end”, he elaborates. The Matheran Hill near Neral, Songir Hill near Palasdhari, Ulhas River and valley, and the areas of Khandala and Lonavala, are a few of the natural wonders that are seen along this route. He adds, “The wide glass windows on the Pune to Mumbai train give you an almost 360-degree view of the scenery.”
Ask him whether COVID-19 precautions were followed during the journey, and he promptly says, “Yes, they were. While people were excited to witness the landscapes and take pictures and videos to share on social media, everyone kept their masks on. Even if the mask did come down, it would just be for a quick photo op.”
A one-way journey from Kalyan to Pune cost Ashish INR 780, which is high compared to the usual rates of railway services in India, especially for a route that is 100 to120 km long. But he says, it's worth it if you're planning it as a one-time thing.
Vistadome coaches across India
This Pune to Mumbai train is Maharashtra’s second Vistadome coach service, and the first was on the Mumbai-Madgaon Jan Shatabdi Special Train. Around the country, this luxury coach attached to the Mumbai-Pune Deccan Express is India’s 14th Vistadome.
Indian Railways has Vistadome coaches on select tourist and scenic rail routes, and they are aimed at creating an indulgent sightseeing experience for the passengers. These include Matheran Hill Railway, Nilgiris Mountain Railways, Araku Valley, Kashmir Valley, Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Kalka Shimla Railway, and Kangra Valley Railway.
How to book a ticket on the Vistadome coach of Mumbai-Pune Deccan Express?
As per the Central Railway press statement, the Mumbai-Pune Deccan Express will be running daily between Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) and Pune Junction. Only passengers with a confirmed ticket for the Vistadome will be allowed in this special coach and will have to follow all norms, SOPs related to COVID-19 throughout the journey and at the stations.
It will leave from CSMT at 7 am and reach Pune on the same day at 11.05 am. The same train will leave Pune at 3.15 pm and reach CSMT at 7.05 pm on the same day. The train halts at Dadar, Thane, Kalyan, Neral (for Mumbai to Pune journey only), Lonavala, Talegaon, Khadki and Shivaji Nagar.
You can book a seat on the Vistadome coach via the IRCTC website or at any passenger reservation system (PRS) centre.