Tamil Nadu

14 routes identified for private trains by Southern Railway

Eight of them originate from Chennai and two pass through the city

The opening up of the railway routes for private players in the country has spurred mixed reaction among regular railway commuters in the city.

The Indian Railway has planned to offer 14 routes of 16 sets of trains in the Southern Railway for which Request for Quotations (RFQs) was issued on Wednesday after giving in-principle approval for public private partnership (PPP).

A senior official of the Southern Railway said that the PPP mode, similar to the opening of the airways for private operators, would see Indian railways competing with private train operators. He said as per initial plan, a total of 12 routes of the Southern Railway have been identified, of which eight routes (not trains) originating from Chennai, two routes via Chennai and two routes outside Chennai division, are proposed to be given to private operators.

Though the number of train sets have been fixed at 16, the number of trains to be operated on private routes would be decided later, he added.

The eight routes originating from Chennai are Coimbatore, Kanniyakumari, Madurai, Tiruchi, Tirunelveli, Mumbai, Mangaluru, and New Delhi.

Similarly, two routes passing through Chennai would be the Puducherry-Secunderabad and Kochuveli-Guwahati.

The two routes to be privatised outside Chennai division are Tirunelveli-Coimbatore and Kanniyakumari-Ernakulam.

Two trains with Chennai as destination and to be operated by Jaipur and Howrah clusters are in the route map. In the Jaipur cluster, a private train from Jodhpur to Chennai and in the Howrah cluster, a private train from Howrah to Chennai would be operated.

The railway official said though the routes would be privatised, the trains would be operated by the loco pilots and guards of the Indian Railways.

However, consumer activists are sceptical about the privatisation of train routes, though they do believe it would improve the efficiency of train operations.

T. Sadagopan, a regular train commuter and consumer activist from Avadi, said the first victim of privatisation would be the various concessions being offered to senior citizens and economically backward people.

Unions oppose decision

Railway employees’ unions have flayed the Centre for having invited bids from private players to operate 105 trains.

Southern Railway Mazdoor Union accused the Centre of misusing the COVID-19 lockdown to promote its privatisation policy.

“Since we cannot mobilise people for major protests under the lockdown conditions, the Centre is going ahead with its anti-people policies,” according to SRMU Madurai divisional secretary, J.M. Rafi.

Already Indian Railway has asked to close down economically unviable branch lines and also to convert hundreds of long-distance passenger trains into express trains.

“When these two measures would deny train services to the majority of the rural masses, the move to allow private players to run trains will further hit the common man,” he said.

Dakshin Railway Employees’ Union Madurai divisional secretary, R. Sankaranarayanan, said that operation of private trains would lead to manifold increase in passenger fare. Besides, the private players would not entertain concessions for senior citizens, differently abled persons, students and others.

Stating that train journey would become out of reach of the poor and middle class people, Mr. Sankaranaryanan said that the government employment offered by Indian Railway would become private employment. “This will dash the hope of educated youth to find employment in government department,” he said.

He added that three lakh posts lying vacant in Indian Railways would never be filled.

The Railway Department had also asked the railway administration to surrender 50% of the posts that had been lying vacant for the last two years, said SRMU assistant divisional secretary V. Ramkumar.

He alleged that the newly-introduced rail-hostesses in Delhi-Lucknow Tejas Express that was handed over to a private player were not paid their salaries at all.

Mr. Sankaranarayanan said that even now Indian Railways was operating trains at an average speed of 160 kmph. The increase of speed of trains could be extended to other parts of the country too.

But, instead the Government was trying to sell the profit-making sectors of the railway system, which would indirectly further weaken the economy of Indian Railways.

He condemned the attempt by the Centre to give on a platter the Indian Railways that was created with the taxpayers’ money to private players.

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Printable version | Aug 4, 2020 2:46:55 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/14-routes-identified-for-private-trains-by-southern-railway/article31984616.ece

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