Travel agents aghast, tourists disappointed over JKCCC’s ‘lackadaisical’ approach
The suspension of Phase-1 of Gondola, at a popular tourist resort Gulmarg which takes passengers to a height of 10167 ft at Kungdoori has left the tourists disappointed.
In the absence of the facility, tourists are using All Terrain Vehicles and ponies to reach base of second phase at Kungdoori from where Gondola takes them to Apparwath peak at an altitude of 13054 ft.
Jammu and Kashmir Cable Car Corporation suspended Gondola services on Phase-1 on Oct 30 for maintenance work. It had also suspended its service for over a month earlier also infuriating the local stakeholders and also disappointing the tourists.
The tourists also complained of being overcharged by all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and pony operators.
A tourist from Mumbai, Kayezad Adjana said ponywallas are charging between Rs 1500 and Rs 2000 per tourists upto Kungdoori.
“All-terrain vehicles are charging between Rs 3500 and Rs 4000 per trip for the same route,” he said.
A group of tourists including Suresh Poozhithara from Kozhikode, Praveen Bhandari from Jaipur, Karan Sharma from Delhi, Faisal Sopariwala from Baroda, Ratan kumar from Lucknow, Nikita Karia from Ahmedabad who spoke to Rising Kashmir expressed their disappointment on listening about the closure of the Gandola phase-1.
The official rates fixed for pony ride at Gulmarg are Pony Rs 350 for first hour and Rs 250 for every subsequent hour. All-terrain vehicle should charge Rs 300 for 15 minutes, Rs 1200 per hour.
To reach Kungdoori by pony, it generally takes about one hour and by ATV about half an hour.
Former Chairman of Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) Jammu and Kashmir Chapter Shamim Shah said that tourist footfall is good this time on Diwali “but they are missing out on Gondola services in Gulmarg”.
"We are receiving lots of complaints from travellers about the closure of gondola phase-1. If its maintenance was important, it should have been done during off season so that tourists would enjoy its ride during peak season,” Shah said.
He said closure of cable car also affects businesses and also brings bad image to tourism.
"We already suffered a lot because of turmoil in last months in the valley. The closure of the cable car at Gulmarg is bringing disappointment to the tourists who plan their itineraries well in advance," Shah said.
He said travellers book their packages including Gondola rides well in advance.
“How can we convince them that the cable car corporation all of the sudden announced its maintenance.”
The officials at Cable Car Corporation said upgradation of Gandola phase-1 will be completed within a week.
“We decided to start its maintenance as there is no rush of tourists to Gulmarg at this point of time.”
He said the Goldola project is 42-years-old which needed upradation urgently.
JKCCC will be changing 72 cabins of phase-1 besides upgrade its electrode system.
The Gondola maintenance is being undertaken on the advice of the French Company M/S Pomagalski which is responsible for its supply, erection and installation.
The officials said the company had advised against its operation until its maintenance is done.
“French engineers had visited Gulmarg and sought the replacement of hub and shaft of these lifts,” he said.
Earlier, Gulmarg Gondola phase-1 was closed for 33 days after reinforcing the necessary maintenance.
Hundreds of the tourists visiting Gulmarg had expressed disappointment over the non-functioning of Gulmarg Gondola for phase-1 which had closed since 16 May, 2018 and opened on 27 June.
The gondola service is one of the major tourist attractions in Gulmarg, the tourist destination counted among Asia’s best ski resorts. It is one of the highest and longest cable-based lift services in the continent, ferrying passengers to and from Gulmarg to Kongdoor station roughly 4,000 meters above sea level.
The Jammu and Kashmir State Cable Car Corporation (JKSCCC) has earned crores of rupees since its inception, thus proving to be the major backbone of the tourism industry of not only valley but to the whole state.