Acceding to the demand of the private players, Indian Railways has extended the last date for submission of financial bids in the Rs 30,000 crore private train operation project from 30 March to 30 June.
This is the second such extension with the railways earlier extending the submission date from January-end to 30 March in the first-of-its-kind rail project in the country.
Almost all participants were seeking more time to submit bids, said a senior Railway Ministry official.
Though there were 16 participants in the first stage, it is learnt that only a few players including GMR, IRCTC, RK Associates, PNC Infratech, IRB Infra and Medha have shown interest in the second stage.
However, the official said it was a good response as private entities have procured request for proposal (RFP) documents for all 12 clusters.
The ambitious private train project is a bold initiative involving 151 trains on 109 routes across the country.
Though the private train fares will be market-driven and the railways will not interfere in the matter, there are issues involving fare revision cap.
It is learnt that private players are opposing annual fare revision, which will not be more than 2 per cent while haulage charge would be upwardly revised by 6 per cent in a year.
The issue would be discussed with participants to finalise the documents, said the official.
Besides, there are issues over technical specification contemplated for private operators, which requires maintenance after running a distance of 40,000 kilometres or for 31 days.
In order to make private train operations more attractive for potential bidders, the railways has said that it will not run a competing train within a 20-km radius from the originating point on the route of a private train, for an hour.
In an earlier relaxation, the railways had allowed the passenger train operators to carry a limited volume of parcel cargo in the trains.
The routes on offer to private players have been divided into 12 clusters: Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Chennai, Delhi (two clusters), Howrah, Jaipur, Mumbai (two clusters), Patna, Prayagraj and Secunderabad.
Private players are expected to introduce new-age trains with modern technology in the Indian rail system which would reduce journey time substantially. Each train will have a minimum of 16 coaches.
The private entity shall pay the Indian Railways fixed haulage charges, energy charges as per actual consumption and a share in gross revenue determined through a transparent bidding process. The concession period for the project will be 35 years.
The trains would, however, be operated by drivers and guards of Indian Railways.
Arun Kumar Das is a senior journalist covering railways. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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