Passenger rail corridors on Delhi-Mumbai leg may foster private trains

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In an effort that may clear the decks for bringing in private-run trains in the Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Howrah stretches, Indian Railways is introducing the concept of dedicated passenger corridors in the country. On these routes, the train speed would also be increased to above 160 kilometers per hour (kmph) over the next four or five years by revamping the entire signaling, tracks and fencing.

Also as a safety measure, Railways has lined up a plan to eliminate all the manned level crossings. All unmanned level crossings were eliminated during the last financial year. A draft Cabinet note has also been floated to eliminate all 2,565 manned level crossings on the entire golden quadrilateral and diagonal routes within four years at an expense of Rs 50,000 crore.  

Railway Board chairman V K Yadav said on Monday that the national transporter would be having both the eastern and western dedicated freight corridors (DFCs) in place by 2021 and the plan is to ensure that by that time dedicated passenger routes with improved speed of 160 kmph and efficiency are also in place in the same routes by revamping the entire network.

“We can introduce private train operators then. For that, we need to have some vision for five to 10 years,” Yadav said. He added that in the dedicated passenger corridor, freight will not be more than 10 per cent. The railways will be completing the first two stretches — Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Howrah — in a span of four years.

Yadav added private operators will be able to provide onboard services according to their own plans – including food, maintenance and entertainment. “We will be doing the safety and maintenance. In addition, loco pilots and guards will also be part of the Railways. All other onboard services will come under the private player,” he said. To showcase the model, two Tejas trains from Delhi to Lucknow and Mumbai to Ahmedabad have already been allotted to the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC). The first Tejas train to Lucknow will start its services before October 15, he said.

To take up 700 Mhz spectrum only if free

The Indian Railways said on Monday that it will not take up premium 700 Mhz spectrum unless it is reserved by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to it for free. The Railway Board chairman V K Yadav said will look for other options if the spectrum is not given for free.

Currently, the Railway Ministry has 2.5-3 MHz of the 900 Mhz frequency spectrum, but is only available at certain spots. The ministry of Railways had first requested the department of telecommunication to reserve 15 MHz of spectrum in 700 MHz band on Feburary  27 and initially to allocate 10 MHz free of cost.

At least 631 manned level crossings have been eliminated during the last financial year and the IR is looking to do away with another 1,795 such crossings in 2019-20. “Compared to the earlier policy through which state governments had to finance 50 per cent for the elimination of manned crossings, the new policy may ensure that it is completely being done by the Railways,” he added.

Yadav said that with data loggers in place at 362 stations, punctuality level has improved to 73 per cent this year. After the new system was introduced during the last financial year, punctuality had plunged to 66 per cent.

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