Private trains will benefit travellers: Railways

An inside view of a coach of the newly launched Lucknow-Delhi Tejas Express, India’s first private train, at the Charbagh Railway station in Lucknow on October 4, 2019.

An inside view of a coach of the newly launched Lucknow-Delhi Tejas Express, India’s first private train, at the Charbagh Railway station in Lucknow on October 4, 2019.

With private trains expected to begin operations by April 2023, the Railways on Thursday said the move would only benefit travellers by way of confirmed tickets and faster trains. It also allayed fears of higher fares and job losses.


“Among the major objectives of this project are induction of modern technology and reduction in transit time and the demand-supply deficit. We are eyeing a quantum jump in technology,” Railway Board Chairman V.K. Yadav said.

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The Railways on Wednesday invited Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for operation of passenger trains by private operators on 109 routes with 151 modern trains. This project is expected to attract ₹30,000 crore in private investment.

Mr. Yadav said the Railways was running 2,800 Mail Express Trains, and 151 modern trains — for which the RFQ was invited — accounted for only 5% of them. “95% of trains will still be run by Indian Railways,” he said. The statement comes amid concerns raised by Opposition parties over the privatisation of the Railways.

“More than 70 years after independence, we have not been able to develop our railway infrastructure to provide travel services to all our passengers. That has been our focus — to provide trains on demand...this project is also in continuation to that,” he said.

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According to the data shared by Mr. Yadav, though the Railways ferried 8.4 billion (840 crore) passengers in 2019-20, about five crore passengers could not be accommodated, meaning their wait-listed tickets were dropped. “In fact, further analysis shows that during the busy seasons/summer season nearly 13.3% passengers were not able to get confirmed reservation,” he said.

Responding to a question on the possibility of higher fares in these trains, Mr. Yadav said that due to the competition in the market, he did not expect the fares to be very high. “When they will fix prices, they will have to compete with AC bus fares and air travel fares. I don’t think it will be viable for private operators to run with very high tariffs.”

He added that since 95% of the trains would be run by the Railways, fares of these trains would not go up. “At the same time, we will work to better facilities and upgrade coaches. So it will benefit the common man who will get better facilities at the same price.”

Mr. Yadav said the allegations that the move would lead to job losses in the Railways were baseless. He added that these private trains would be run in addition to the currently available trains run by the Railways. In addition, the Railways would have to introduce more trains to cater for an estimated 13 billion passengers by 2030. “Hence, in future, the railway jobs will only go up because we are expanding infrastructure and targeting to meet the demand of all passengers,” he said.

On the technological advancements, the Chairman pointed out that train coaches now required maintenance after they ran 4,000 km, but modern coaches would need maintenance after every 40,000 km or once or twice in 30 days. Besides, they would run faster, would be safer and would provide more facilities.

The Railways expected to open financial bids for the project by February-March 2021 and finalise them by April 2021. “We are expecting that by April 2023; within two years, the trains will start operating,” Mr. Yadav said.

He said that the bids had been designed in such a way that the Railways would recover its costs on drivers, guards and safety, among other things. However, what revenue the Railways would get from this project would be known once bids were finalised. “Right now, the Railways makes losses in passenger services. With this project, at least the Railways will not lose anything,” Mr. Yadav said.

The private entity will pay the Railways fixed haulage charges, energy charges as per actual consumption and a share in gross revenue determined through the bidding process. Further, he added that RFQ had been issued under the Make in India policy. So the coaches would have to be manufactured in India and the local component would be as specified in the policy.

On increasing the speed of trains across the network, Mr. Yadav said that within the next 5-10 years, most of the routes would be fit for running trains at 160 km/hour. Currently, a majority of the tracks are fit for 110 km/hour. In some sections, trains can run at 130 km/hour and in one section at 160 km/hour. Mr. Yadav said that in the first phase, the Railways was working on increasing the potential speed on some important routes to 130 km/hour. For instance, the work to upgrade the speed on the Delhi-Mumbai route to 130 km/hour was complete.

The Chairman said by the end of this fiscal, the golden quadrilateral and golden diagonal routes would be fit for running trains at 130 km/hour. “For Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Kolkata, we have already sanctioned and started work for 160 km/hour, which will be completed by the end of 2023. Gradually, we will take up other segments of golden quadrilateral and golden diagonal, which carry 60% of the traffic, for upgrade,” he said.

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Printable version | May 13, 2022 6:33:23 pm |