Photo: Shalini Tahir

Amritsar, NFAPost: Asia’s oldest rail network, Indian Railways,  has for the first time opened up for private players to operate passenger trains on its network. The Ministry of Railways has invited private entities to submit their request for qualifications (RFQ) to run passenger trains over 109 pairs of routes through 151 trains.

The ministry in its statement today said that the project would entail a private sector investment of about 30,000 crore rupees.

“The objective of this initiative is to introduce modern technology rolling stock with reduced maintenance, reduced transit time, boost job creation, provide enhanced safety, provide world-class travel experience to passengers,” the ministry said.

This decision comes at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has wreak havoc in the country’s economy and when the government needs to tap new sources of cash generation to boost the economy and create employment.

Indian Railways had last year began the process of outsourcing passenger services by allowing Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), a publicly listed state-run firm, to operate some trains.

IRCTC currently runs three trains — Lucknow-Delhi Tejas Express, Ahmedabad-Mumbai Tejas Express, and the Kashi Mahakal Express on the Varanasi-Indore route.

Under this new initiative, the 109 origin-destination routes have been formed into 12 clusters across the Indian Railway network, the ministry said adding that each train shall have a minimum of 16 coaches.

“Trains shall be designed for a maximum speed of 160 kmph. 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 in the respective route,” the ministry said.

The ministry has said that selected private firms will have to manufacture a majority of the trains locally, and will be responsible for financing, procuring, operation, and maintenance of the services. Drivers, and guards will however be provided by the state-run enterprise.

It also added that the concession period for the project shall be 35 years, and that the private firm shall pay the Indian Railways fixed haulage charges, energy charges as per actual consumption and a share in gross revenue determined through a transparent bidding process.

The ministry has said that the entire process of handing over certain routes to private players will be completed in two parts.

The first part started today with invite for RFQs, wherein private bidders will qualify. The second step will be Request for Proposal (RFP). The details of revenue generation and routes will be decided during the latter process, the ministry said.

According to reports, companies such as Adani Ports, MakeMyTrip, R K Catering, Indigo, SpiceJet, and Vistara had earlier shown interest in operating private trains.

Global firms that showed interest were France’sAlstom SA, Spains’ Talgo SA, Canada’s Bombardier Inc, Australia’s Macquaire Group, and Germany’s Siemens AG.

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