Private train operators given freedom to choose halt stations: Railways

Private operators who will be handed over 150 trains to ply on 109 routes by the Railways will have the freedom to choose halt stations of the trains they operate, documents released by the national transporter have shown.
However, the private operators have to submit in advance to the Railways the list of such intermediate stations on the trains’ paths where they are proposing halts.
The private operators also have to provide the time in and time out at the intermediate railway stations, which shall form part of the train operation plan. This has to be submitted in advance and will be in place for at least a year, after which it can be revised, a draft of the Concession Agreement has said.
“The Concessionaire shall have the flexibility in deciding the stops/ halts in accordance with the terms and conditions of the Concession Agreement,” the Railways has said in reply to a query by one of the private players who attended the pre-application meetings.
The Railways has also said the number of such halts of the private trains will not be more than the number of existing halts of the fastest train of the Railways operating in that route. The train operation plan submitted by private operators will also have to include the stations at which the water tanks in the trains need to be filled and also the railway stations, washing lines or stabling lines, as the case maybe, at which the train toilets would be evacuated.
The private operator however may also be permitted to stop at railway station(s) not forming part of the train operation plan, if made necessary due to operational exigencies, the Railways has said.
As earlier reported by PTI, the fares for private trains that are scheduled to begin operations by 2023 will not be regulated by any authority and will be decided by the private operators depending on market conditions.
Bombardier Transportation India, Siemens Limited, Alstom Transport India Ltd are among the 23 firms that have evinced interest in running private trains.
A first-of-its-kind venture, the project to bring in private players to run trains is expected to see private sector investment of around Rs 30,000 crore.
The 109 pairs of routes have been formed into 12 clusters that will cover major parts of the Indian Railways network. The aim of the project is to upgrade passenger experience on the railway network to world-class standards, with modern train rakes, most of which will be manufactured in the country under the ‘Make in India’ initiative.
Indian Railways will earn by charging the private entity fixed haulage charges and energy charges as per actual consumption. The national transporter will also get a share in the gross revenue which will be decided through a transparent bidding process.
As of now, the private train operator would need to access the Railway’s PRS (passenger reservation system) for management and distribution of its ticket inventory. For usage of such reservation system, they may have to pay a charge to the Indian Railways, the document said.