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A lowdown on India's controversial private train concept

The Railway Board has made it clear that none of the physical operations and infrastructure - including safety-related operations - will be handled by private players

Topics
Indian Railways | privatisation | Tejas Express

Kanishka Gupta  |  New Delhi 

Last October, railway employee unions staged protests against Tejas Express, the country's first private train that runs between Lucknow and Delhi. The All India Railwaymen's Federation (AIRF) held nationwide protests to oppose the railway board's decision to launch Tejas and give another 150 trains to be operated by the private sector. Who owns Tejas and railways moving towards

So, let’s start with October 2019, when the made history by flagging off India’s first private train between Lucknow and Delhi. Now understand, despite being supported by corporate players, the train is essentially managed by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), a subsidiary of the

What does ‘private train’ mean ?

The has made it clear that none of the physical operations and infrastructure – including safety-related operations – will be handled by private players. In case of Tejas, the locomotives, coaches, loco pilots and security personnel are provided by the Railways, while onboard services such as ticketing, catering and housekeeping were managed by private contractors entrusted by IRCTC.

The concept of private train isn’t unique to India, countries like Japan already have a well established network.

Next, the passengers. Considering the hefty amount of money you have to pay while traveling in such trains, what are the benefits provided?

Besides, modern facilities like air-conditioned coaches, clean and high-quality food, CCTV cameras, LED TVs, automatic doors, bio-toilets and mobile charging points, a free insurance of Rs 25 lakh is provided to every passenger. What’s more, a bold move of compensating passengers for train delays on an hourly basis was introduced by the Railways, which has traditionally faced heat for lack of punctuality.

Well, even if it looks like a cake walk, since aided by the corporate players, the Railways also have challenges ahead.

A major change will be market-linked pricing for tickets, ensuring passengers pay according to demand.

Besides, ensuring the safety and security of passengers while keeping private parties happy will be another challenge. Similarly, infrastructure capability of tracks should also be improved, as planned in the Mumbai-Delhi and Delhi-Mumbai routes, where the existing tracks, signalling and speed of the trains will be improved. And to bring in more private players, the average and maximum speeds of passenger trains should also be raised from the existing 40-45 km per hour and 160 kmph, respectively.

What’s next?

A concept paper floated by Niti Aayog states that 100 paths will be bundled into 10-12 clusters covering 150 trains. This may unwind an investment opportunity of Rs 22,500 crore from national and international private players having a minimum net worth of Rs 450 crore each. Chairman V K Yadav said the bids that will be floated in this regard very soon, will be based on a revenue-sharing model. The concession period given for companies will be...

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First Published: Fri, January 17 2020. 09:22 IST
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