Private Train Operations: Indian Railways Enters Crucial Stage Of Ambitious Project

Private Train Operations: Indian Railways Enters Crucial Stage Of Ambitious ProjectIndian Railways in privatisation push. (NOAH SEELAM/AFP/GettyImages)
  • Indian Railways’ ambitious private train project is on track with the transporter set to float request for quotation for projects worth Rs 22,500 crore.

With boiler rooms of the economy sputtering back to life, Indian Railways has set the most ambitious initiative — private train operation — in motion to float the request for quotation (RFQ) for Rs 22,500 crore worth rail projects after the Empowered Group of Secretaries met this week.

The crucial meeting, attended by expenditure secretary, a NITI Aayog member, Railway Board chairman, financial commissioner, member (traffic) and member (engineering) looked at the way forward for the bold move of handing over 100 originating destinations in the rail network to private players.

After the meeting, the ball has been set rolling to firm up the tender documents before inviting interested players to join the race.

All clauses of the RFQ are being examined threadbare by senior railway officials involved in the project to make some last minute changes, if required, said a senior official aware of the development.

The haulage charge, bone of contention in the RFQ, has been fixed at Rs 512 per km while energy cost to be paid separately by the private players.

Haulage charge was earlier Rs 950, which was reduced to Rs 668, and now finally fixed at Rs 512 after two pre-bid conferences.

Besides, the issues of infrastructure maintenance cost are also being discussed, that is whether to include signalling, track maintenance, terminal cost, transportation and overheads in the haulage or not.

This is because private train operators have maintained that common facilities such as waiting hall, platform, station building, track, signalling and telecom among others are not exclusively for private trains.

The project envisages private operators to take over about 150 trains on lease from railways to run on 100 routes connecting all major cities.

Private train operators are expected to procure trains from railways on lease to begin with and later they would have their own. All operators are in favour of bringing their own customised trains from the market in the long run.

There are provisions in the RFQ which have specified that no passenger train will be allowed 15 minutes before and 15 minutes after the departure of the privately-operated train on the same originating route.

There was not much action on the private train operation project in the last two months as the railways was busy transporting stranded passengers and delivering essential commodities across the country on a priority basis amid the Covid-19 lockdown.

Since the lockdown has been relaxed, all production units and workshops of the public transporter have started functioning in a graded manner.

Besides, the railways has started running 230 passenger trains to various destinations with more mail and express train services expected to commence in phases shortly.

Hundred routes are being selected based on passenger demand. Those routes which have the maximum waiting list are offered in the bid. Mumbai, Delhi, Howrah, Patna, Guwahati, Chennai and Secunderabad are major clusters for which the players are keen to run 16-coach trains.

Some of the identified routes such as Panvel-Manduadih, Panvel-Kanpur, Indore-Okhla, Bandra-Akola, Jogeshwari-Tilak Bridge, Allahabad-Pune, Patna-Hadapsar, Gorakhpur-Jogeshwari, Kanpur-Bandra, Parel-Kolhapur, Parel-Shirdi are in Mumbai clusters.

New Delhi-New Rishikesh, Faizabad-Bhatinda, Lucknow-Jammu, Chennai-Okhla, Bijwasan-Sabarmati, Tilak Bridge-Gomtinagar, Chandigarh-Sultanpur, Jaipur-Udhampur, Ambala-Allahabad are in Delhi cluster.

New Delhi-Central Mumbai, Howrah-Chennai, Howrah-Anand Vihar are some routes expected to be also in demand.

Until now, the national transporter has complete monopoly over the passenger segment though some tourist trains are being run privately in a limited way.

The maiden attempt by the state-run transporter has evinced keen interest among top companies in infrastructure and transportation sectors, including Tata and Adani groups.

Arun Kumar Das is a senior journalist covering railways. He can be contacted at


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