NITI Aayog pitches for bringing in private players for train operations

Private trains running on a particular route will have a head start of 15 minutes on other trains running on the same route, a maximum permissible speed of 160 kmph and also their own guards and crew, says a draft proposal mooted by the NITI Aayog as it finalises the contours of bringing in private players for train operations in the country.

A slew of draft documents -- for Request for Qualification (RFQ), Concession Agreement Guiding Principles, Project Information Memorandum (PIM) along with a presentation on the salient features of the project -- for discussion on private participation in passenger trains have been uploaded by Niti Ayog on its website which outline the railways' plans of running 150 trains on 100 routes by private operators, envisaging an investment of Rs 22,500 crore.

The paper, prepared for discussions with stakeholders, has split the 100 routes into 10-12 clusters. As per the paper, the private operator will have the right to collect market-linked fares and will be provided flexibility of class composition and halts.

It said the time taken by a private train to complete a path shall be comparable to the fastest train of Indian Railways operating on that path with a variation of plus or minus ten per cent.

"IR shall provide a non-discriminatory treatment for the trains operated by the Concessionaire. No similar scheduled regular train will depart in the same origin destination route within 15 minutes of the scheduled operation of the Concessionaires (private players) train. Each train shall have a minimum of 16 coaches and a maximum not exceeding the longest passenger train operating on the respective path," the draft stated.

The documents have stated that Operation and maintenance of the passenger trains would be governed by standards to be laid down by Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO). The maintenance of the trains shall be the responsibility of the private entity.

Railways will provide berth/ space to private entities in the existing maintenance depots/ washing lines or a space in proximate area on as is where basis for up-gradation and use of the same by them.

The private entity shall be free to procure trains and locomotives from a source of its choice, provided such trains and locomotives are compatible with specification and standards specified in the Concession Agreement, the document stated.

"The private entity shall be responsible for financing, procuring, operation and maintenance of the trains. The private entity shall pay to IR pre-determined charges for haulage and any other payments as specified in the agreement," the document said.

The documents have also specified the features that the private trains should have -- modern design bogies, stainless steel/aluminum exteriors, brake system, improved safety features with fire retardant interiors, modern couplers with anti-climbing features, wider gangway design for safe inter-rail car movement, efficient air conditioning with automatic temperature and humidity control, superior interiors and toilets, folding step for physically challenged passengers GPS enabled passenger announcement system for on-board announcements for station arrivals, time to next station/destination, safety announcement, among other requirements.

It also said that the compensation for claims in respect of loss of life, bodily injury, luggage and goods will be covered under insurance taken by the private entity.

Eligible applicant to run private operations may be a - domestic or international entity with a minimum technical capacity of Rs 2,700 crore over the last five years, the proposal stated.

Officials in the railway ministry said that the RFQ and RFP will be floated soon for the 150 trains to be run by private operators.

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