The Indian Railways
may soon be open for more investment from private players and may allow them to operate passenger trains on low-congestion and tourist routes.
According to sources, the national transporter may also consider bringing in premium trains, including the Rajdhanis and Shatabdis, under this plan, for which a tender is likely to be floated within four months. On an experimental basis, two trains may be allotted to Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), covering important tourism destinations or connecting major cities, in less congested routes. Various stakeholders, including the Unions are likely to be consulted before the move.
In its strategy for New India released in 2018, Niti Aayog too had advocated for more private participation in the sector, including ownership of locomotives and rolling stock, to modernising railway stations. The planning body in its suggestions for railways said the national transporter should consider opening up the ownership and operations of freight terminals and ownership of locomotives and rolling stock to the private sector under a transparent, neutral (non-railway) and fair regulatory mechanism. It had cited that the move will improve performance and investment.
Icra also notes that IRSDC, the nodal agency for the railway station development programme, has recently allocated planning and feasibility work for 39 stations to five CPSEs (NPCC, Engineering Projects, MECON, RITES, Bridges & Roof Co). This is likely to pave the way for fast-tracking their development. This apart, NBCC was earlier entrusted with 10 railway stations of which it has already awarded EPC work for three stations and is likely to take up the remaining stations depending on their financial viability.
Last year, the Railways had also opened up the doors for private sector investment in rail cars that can move multiple commodities, which does not require any special approval, through general purpose wagon scheme, in which the fleet will be completely owned by private parties. Major players like Adani Group, JSW Cement, Jindal Steel and Power, Tata Steel, Rashmi Cement and Orissa Metaliks had shown their interest on that. There are other schemes like Liberalised Wagon Investment Scheme, Wagon Leasing Scheme, Automobile Freight Train Operator scheme and Special Freight Train Operator Scheme, in which private parties were involved, but in such schemes, the fleet assigned were part of Indian Railways