Indian Railways will soon start charging user fees as part of train fares. This fund will be used to develop railway stations and modernise the infrastructure of the network in order to attract investments. The user fee will be in line with the user development fee (UDF) paid by air passengers. The UDF varies from city to city.
The national transporter is planning to levy the user fee across 700-1,000 railway stations. Railway board CEO VK Yadav said at a press conference that the Railways is going to keep a small amount of the user fee. The transporter is aiming to levy the charges on stations based on footfall. It will be charged on stations where Indian Railways anticipate a growth in footfall, necessitating an expansion of the station.
The Railway ministry has so far earmarked around 50 stations for the redevelopment. They plan to monetise the land of these stations. The redeveloped hubs would be called Railopolis.
Yadav said the user fee will be nominal and will not impact the common man. He added the Railways intends to gradually charge the small amount at every station, whether they are redeveloped or not. Yadav said the small amount would help in providing good services to people. Charges would soon be notified, he added.
"When the redevelopment of the stations gets completed, the money will go to the concessionaires. Till then that money will go to the Railways to improve facilities across stations," said Yadav, adding that they aim to upgrade all the major railway stations.
NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant was also present at the press briefing. He said that private investment in the network would introduce competition as well as reduce fares in the future. Kant said that like Japan and South Korea, railways in India could also drive the country's growth story. "We are confident going forward that railways will contribute 1-2 per cent towards India's growth," Kant said.
Kant gave the example of banking sector in India. He said that when private players were allowed in the banking sector, a lot of banks opened up but that did not lead to the shutting down of State Bank of India. "Private investment will bring in newer technologies. It will create competition in the railway sector. Competition will increase efficiency and reduce fares in the long run," he said.
"The focus is Make in India, even the global companies that participate in this will have to follow the Make in India norms by the DPIIT (Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade). This will bring in manufacturing capacity," Kant said.
Yadav added that seven new bullet train corridors are being planned by the Ministry of Railways.They will be up for development through public private partnership.