Seeking private investment of about Rs 30,000 crore, Indian Railways has invited bids from private companies for running passenger trains on 109 pairs (origin-destination) of routes.
The concession period for the project shall be 35 years and the private firms would be responsible for financing, procuring, operation and maintenance of the trains.
The selected private companies will pay to Indian Railways fixed haulage charges, energy charges as per actual consumption and a share in gross revenue determined through the bidding process.
"The objective of this initiative is to introduce modern technology rolling stock with reduced maintenance, reduced transit time, boost job creation, provide enhanced safety, provide world class travel experience to passengers, and also reduce demand supply deficit in the passenger transportation sector," Indian Railways said in an official statement.
Former Railway Board Chairman Arunendra Kumar said that the project could take 3-5 years to take off given that the private parties will procure rolling stocks and then it will need to be certified for safety.
While he said that the move would ensure better-designed coaches for passengers, he doubted if punctuality would improve drastically given that the tracks would remain the same and are congested.
"It is a mix bag but it is certainly an improvement in the sense that people consider railways as lethargic," Kumar said.
The Railways has said that operation of the trains by the private entity would need to conform to certain key performance indicators like punctuality, reliability and upkeep of trains.
"Operation and maintenance of the passenger trains would be governed by standards and specifications and requirements specified by Indian Railways," the national transporter said.
As per the request for qualification (RFQ) document, the 109 pairs of trains have been formed into 12 clusters across the Indian Railway network. Each train will have a minimum of 16 coaches.
The proposed trains are required to be designed for a maximum speed of 160 kmph. The running time taken by a train shall be comparable to or faster than the fastest train of Indian Railways operating in the respective route. Most coaches have to be manufactured in India.
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