Indian Railway, for the first time in its history is introducing privately operated trains. Railway is going ahead with its 100 day action plan approved by Minister of Railways for private players to handle two trains. The trains shall be given to private operators on experimental basis and Railways is hoping to start this privatization activity for both trains within 100 days. The train allotment shall be through bidding.
The main route selection parameters are high congestion and connectivity with tourist spots. Custody of these trains would be transferred to Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), which shall pay charges, including lease charges to Indian Railway Finance Corporation (IRFC).
The New Delhi – Lucknow Tejas Express, which shall cover a distance of 550 km in 5.45 hrs, has been selected as the first train to be run privately. This Tejas train was announced in 2016 and has been introduced in new time table released on 1st July 2019.
Tejas Express shall be operated at top speed of 130 Km/hr, but has a maximum operation speed of 200 Km/hr. This route already has 53 trains running, with fastest, Swarn Shatabdi taking 6.30 hrs. Railways is deliberating on 2nd route and is looking for less than 500 km distance.
At present Indian Railways is facing protest by union and several criticism for this proposal.
Why introduce Private operators
Indian railway network is third largest in the world, with track running over 60,000 kilometers connecting 7,500 stations and nearly carrying 20 million people every day. In-spite of large scale ridership and many new trains railways has been under immense losses. Therefore Railways has decided to explore private partnership on an experimental basis.
Proposed privatization of two trains is being seen as a first major step towards some privatization in Railways.