Country's largest railway union All India Railwaymen's Federation (AIRF) has said it will protest against the government decision to privatise part of the railway operations. AIRF says train passengers will be hit the most in case private companies run the trains, and plans to rope them in for the protests.
"All this is wishful thinking. Railways has not been able to profitably run even three Tejas trains. The break-even occupancy for these trains is 70% but it has not been more than 40-50% on an average. So, why would a private company put their money in a loss-making business," AIRF General Secretary Shiva Gopal Mishra told BusinessToday.In.
The Railways has billed Tejas Express trains as corporate passenger trains. It charges higher fare for the journey and does not admit any concessional pass. Vowing to protest against the privatisation drive, Mishra says the government had tried to privatise train operations earlier but failed to do so after protests by the Railways staff.
"We are running trains professionally. We are providing good quality service at an affordable fare. There is no reason to privatise trains. We are creating a platform where the general public would also be involved and a massive protest would be launched at grass-root level," AIRF General Secretary said.
Seeking private investment of about Rs 30,000 crore, the Railways on Wednesday 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 will be responsible for financing, procuring, operation and maintenance of trains.
"By going in for privatisation, the government will destroy the Railways and make travelling costly. We outrightly condemn the government move. After discussing the issue with our central members we would launch protest against it," said National Federation of Indian Railwaymen (NFIR) President Guman Singh.
Making a strong case for privatisation, the Railways has said that the objective of this initiative is to introduce modern technology, rolling stock with reduced maintenance, reduce transit time, create more jobs and provide enhanced safety.
With Dedicated Freight Corridors expected to become operational in 2021, the Railways expects that it will free up several trunk routes of congestion, thus giving scope for running more trains on these routes. These additional passenger trains could be run by private companies. With Railways incurring losses in running passenger trains it wants to speed up privatisation. On an average, Indian Railways recovers only 57% of cost of travel while ferrying almost 23 million passengers on a daily basis.
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