Private train operations in the country will begin by April 2023, and ticket fares in these trains will be competitive with airfares on similar routes, the Indian Railways said on Thursday (July 2).
Addressing a press conference online, Railway Board Chairman V K Yadav said private players in passenger train operations will mean a quantum jump in technology and coaches that run at higher speeds.
The improvement in technology will also mean that the coaches that now require maintenance after running 4,000 km, will need maintenance after every 40,000-km, that is either once or twice a month, he said.
His statement came a day after the Railways formally kickstarted its plans to allow private entities to operate passenger trains on its network by inviting requests for qualifications (RFQ) for participation on 109 pairs of routes through 151 modern trains.
“Train sets have to be brought by private operators and maintained by them. Private train operations are likely to begin by April 2023, all coaches will be procured under Make in India policy. Fares in private trains will be competitive and prices on other modes of transport like airlines, buses will have to be kept in mind,” he said.
Allaying fears that the Railways network was being handed over to private parties, Yadav said while addressing the press conference on Thursday that private participation in passenger train operations will only be five per cent of the existing 2,800 Mail/Express trains in the Indian Railways.
On the other hand, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi hit out at the Centre for inviting the private sector to run train operations. He alleged that the government was “snatching means of life from the poor”.
He added that the people of the country will give a befitting reply to this. “Railways is the only lifeline of the poor and the government is taking it away from them. Snatch whatever you wish to. But, do remember that the people of the country will give a befitting reply to this,” Gandhi said in a tweet in Hindi.
रेल ग़रीबों की एकमात्र जीवनरेखा है और सरकार उनसे ये भी छीन रही है।
जो छीनना है, छीनिये। लेकिन याद रहे- देश की जनता इसका करारा जवाब देगी।https://t.co/M6OQZ6xAz5
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) July 2, 2020
However, Yadav said the introduction of private players would also mean that trains will be available on demand and that the passenger waitlist will decrease.
Yadav said that the private operators will also pay fixed haulage charges for path, stations, access to railway infrastructure, and charges for electricity consumed.
It will also share revenue with the Indian Railways through competitive bidding.
The private entity has to ensure 95 per cent punctuality and record not more than one failure per lakh kilometre of travel. “If any performance indicators are not met by private players in passenger train operations, they will be penalised,” said Yadav.
He also said that there will be a power meter in every locomotive and private operators will pay for the actual amount of energy consumed. This, Yadav said, will encourage them to keep their energy consumption low.
“Through this, the common man will get better trains, better technology and at low cost. The Indian Railways will continue to run 95 per cent of the trains,” he added.
(With inputs from agencies)