Railways fast-tracks proposal to let private players operate 151 trains

Topics Indian Railways | Trains | IRCTC

The private trains, each of which will have a minimum of 16 coaches, will be designed for a maximum speed of 160 kilometres per hour.
Fast-tracking the proposal to run private trains in the country, the Railways has initiated the process to rope in players to operate 151 passenger trains, which are expected to see investments to the tune of Rs 30,000 crore.

Requests for qualification (RFQs) have been invited from private firms for operating train services over 109 origin destination (OD) pairs of routes. The routes have been formed into 12 clusters across the Indian Railways network. “This is the first initiative of private investment for running passenger trains over the Indian Railways network. Majority of the trains will be manufactured in India. The private entity shall be responsible for financing, procuring, operation and maintenance of the trains,” the Railways said in a statement.

The private trains, each of which will have a minimum of 16 coaches, will be designed for a maximum speed of 160 kilometres per hour. “There would be a substantial reduction in journey time. The running time taken by a train shall be comparable to or faster than the fastest train of the Indian Railways operating on the respective route,” it said.

The concession period for the project will be 35 years. The private entity will pay fixed haulage charges and energy charges based on actual consumption, besides a share in gross revenue determined through a transparent bidding process to the Railways. The national transporter will be providing drivers and guards to operate these trains for the private players. The operation of the trains shall conform to key performance indicators like punctuality, reliability, and upkeep of trains.

According to the Railways, the objective of this initiative is to introduce modern technology rolling stock with reduced maintenance and reduced transit time, to boost job creation, provide enhanced safety, provide world class travel experience to passengers, and reduce demand supply deficit in the passenger transportation sector.

In October 2019, a prototype of what it means to be a corporate partnership in running trains was shown when Tejas Express was flagged off between Lucknow and Delhi. The second Tejas Express train started commercial operations between Mumbai and Ahmedabad too. Though termed by many as India’s first ‘private’ train, it was managed by Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), a subsidiary of the Indian Railways.

The concept of private rail and trains is not new globally, with countries like Japan having an established network. In India, the Railway Board has made it clear that none of the physical opera-tions and infrastructure — inclu-ding safety-related operations — will be handled by private firms. In Tejas, locomotives, coaches, loco pilots, and security personnel are from the Railways, while onboard services, including ticketing, catering and housekeeping, are managed by private contractors entrusted by IRCTC.

In the first Tejas, a bold move of compensating passengers for delay was introduced by the Railways. In addition, free insurance of Rs 25 lakh was also lined up for every passenger.

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