Anisha Dutta   

New Delhi: Indian Railways may hand over passenger trains on as many as 10 long-distance routes, together with suburban train services in cities like Mumbai and Kolkata, and intercity routes to private entities to operate, as the national transporter seeks to increase its revenue.

A letter sent on Monday by the Railway Board to zonal railways’ principal chief operating managers asked them to study the viability of privatizing the routes, finalise a list and present it at a meeting of railway officials on Friday. Hindustan Times has seen a copy of the letter.

“ Under the proposal, private operators would be identified through a participative bid process to run private/passenger day/overnight trains connecting important cities. It is contemplated that the private operators shall induct modern passenger trains and operate them on paths allocated to them on payment of haulage charges. They will have the right to determine and collect fares in terms of a concession agreement being formulated for this purpose,” the letter said.

The proposed routes for long-distance travel are Delhi-Mumbai, Delhi – Lucknow, Delhi- Jammu/Katra, Delhi- Howrah, Secunderabad-Hyderabad, Secunderabad-Delhi, Delhi- Chennai, Mumbai- Chennai, Howrah- Chennai and Howrah-Mumbai

The plan, for the first time, includes the privatisation of suburban rail services in Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Secunderabad.

“In order to prepare a Request For Quotation (RFQ) and concession documents, it is necessary to identify routes and number of services that can run,” the letter said

Hindustan Times reported on September 9 that the plan is part of the railway ministry’s 100-day action plan, approved in June. The railways has decided to hand over two rakes to the Indian Railway Catering, and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) to operate. It will offer more rakes to private operators through an open bidding process.

The national carrier in June had also given approval to IRCTC for running the Tejas Express on the Delhi- Lucknow and Ahmedabad-Mumbai routes on a pilot basis. The trains would operate with a minimum of 12 coaches for one year.

The railway ministry is also mulling a plan to set up a revamped regulatory authority to monitor the fares and safety of the trains. Plans to set up a Railway Development Authority (RDA) to set tariffs, efficiency and performance standards, suggest measures to enhance non-fare revenues and ensure a level playing field have been pending since it was approved by the Union Cabinet in 2017.

The national carrier also plans to set up dedicated passengers trains’ corridor equipped to run trains at 160 kilometres per hour for private operators. The ministry is working on the speed enhancement of the Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Howrah corridor to 160 kmph in the next four years with the idea of introducing private trains through open bidding.

“ Railways incur a loss of about Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000 crore each year for running passenger services, giving them off to private players will help in reducing their losses definitely and bring down the operating ratio. The ministry is already conducting feasilbity on two routes with the Tejas train so they can gauge the viability of the concept,” said former Railway Board chairman Surendra Singh Khurana.

Courtesy Hindustan Times…