The panel gives the nod to 150 private trains on 100 routes.

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Indian Railways

NEW DELHI, India (Metro Rail News): Indian Railway plan to roll out about 150 private trains on 100 routes, including Mumbai-Delhi and Howrah-Delhi routes. A high-powered panel has cleared the road for privatisation which will compete with Rajdhani.

Railways-controlled IRCTC handed over two Tejas trains some time ago for running on the Delhi-Lucknow and Mumbai-Ahmedabad routes as an experiment with the “private sector”, the committee’s report is likely to pave the way for a massive competition to the services currently being offered by the state transporter.

Shri Piyush Goyal, Ministry of Railway set up the panel after Railway Board chairman VK Yadav flagged off private trains in the Centre’s 100 days’ agenda.

Opportunity for Global Railway Operator to run Private Train

In a recommendation put out for stakeholder consultations have proposed that Indian, as well as global players with experience in railway and tourism sectors, be permitted with a minimum net worth of Rs 450 crore. Other performance parameters, like a maximum-permissible 15-minute delay, beyond which passengers will have to be compensated, have been proposed. On IRCTC-run Tejas trains, a similar facility has been offered.

Less utilised stations will be used for long-distance train

The routes have been divided into seven clusters with a clear plan to develop infrastructure in less utilised stations such as Panvel near Mumbai and Tilak Bridge and Okhla in Delhi for running long-distance trains.

The train routes have been primarily identified on Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Kolkata routes as the railways are hopeful of freeing up tracks by December 2021, when both Eastern and Western Dedicated Freight Corridors will become fully operational and take over the burden of handling goods traffic.

The railways have also approved the plan to improve the existing tracks on these two routes to allow trains to run at 160 kmph, which has been proposed as the speed limit for private trains. According to the plan, the time taken by a train to complete a journey will be comparable with the fastest train operated by the Indian Railways on that route. And, to provide comfort to private players, the railways will not run regular trains on the same route within 15 minutes of the scheduled operation of the private train.

Free to fix the fare

Private operators will be free to fix the fare, decide on halts and procure coaches and engines from any source as long as they comply with the railways’ standards. The private players will have to deploy all the trains within five years of the award of contract.

The idea is to offer better quality service on these trains, while also seeking investments, estimated at over Rs 22,000 crore, for the railways to reverse the trend of losing passenger traffic to airlines. And, the plan is to move in swiftly with the panel headed by NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant suggesting that the first train can be rolled out within six months of the award, with 35-year contracts to be awarded to entities offering to pay the highest revenue share.

According to government data, the current railway network is about 68,000 route km. In 2018-19, the reserved passenger volume was 16% (590 million) of the total originating non-suburban passengers and almost 8.85 crores of wait-listed passengers could not be accommodated. “There is hence a critical requirement to introduce private operations in passenger train which will allow the introduction of next-generation technology, ensuring use of improved coach technology and reduced journey time,” an official document said justifying the need to allow private players to run trains.

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