New Delhi: The Indian Railways has set the ball rolling for its ambitious plan to allow private trains to be run on its network. As per the plan, the Indian Railways will control the signalling and tracks, while the private players will be allowed to run trains on it.
Over 25 stakeholders participated in a discussion on the plan recently after the Niti Aayog shared a detailed roadmap “Request for Qualification (RFQ)” on the issue. These include global major Alstom Transport, Bombardier, Siemens AG, Talgo and Macquarie.
According to a source in the Ministry of Railways, several issues were discussed during the meeting, including the pricing of tickets. He said that it will take at least two years for the first private train to start its operation. At present, there are about 13,000 passenger trains on the Indian Railways network. However, 7,000 more trains would be required to meet the demand. The Niti Aayog earlier this month shared the RFQ to run 150 private trains on 100 routes under the first phase of the project, including Mumbai Central-New Delhi, New Delhi-Patna, Allahabad-Pune and Dadar-Vadodara.
According to a Railway official, the private entities would be selected through bidding. The indicative list of 100 origin destination pairs for introduction of train services by the private entities have been divided into a number of clusters such that each cluster would require operation of a minimum of 12 rakes.
As per the plan, the time taken by a train to complete a path will be comparable to the fastest train of Indian Railways operating on that path. The Indian Railways will provide a non-discriminatory treatment for the trains operated by the private companies. Each train will have a minimum of 16 coaches and a maximum not exceeding the longest passenger train operating on the respective path. The private companies will have the freedom to decide on the fare to be charged from its passengers.
The Indian Railways has a railway network of about 68,000 route kilometers. In 2018-19, the reserved passenger volume was 16% (0.59 billion) of the total originating non-suburban passengers (3.65 billion). Almost 8.85 crore of waitlisted passengers could not be accommodated. Therefore, it was felt to introduce private operations in passenger trains which will allow introduction of next generation technology and provision of higher service quality, ensuring use of improved coach technology and reduced journey time. Subsequently, the Indian Railways has decided to permit private entities to undertake passenger trains operations.
These train services would be operated on the Indian Railway Network where at present both passenger and freight trains operated on the common track. The major trunk routes are saturated and operate at near full capacity. However, with likely commissioning of Dedicated Freight Corridors in 2021 and other infrastructural works, it is expected that there would be availability of additional paths for operation of additional passenger services on certain routes.

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