Friday, August 5, 2016

On the lines of civil aviation sector, Indian railways is keen to bring in private companies to build and operate private rail in India just like the private airlines.

Rakesh Ranjan | Posted by Siddharth Tiwari
New Delhi, August 4, 2016 

Indian Railways have invited foreign private players to run high-speed trains running at 500 km per hour, faster than the proposed bullet train between Mumbai and Ahmedabad.

On the lines of civil aviation sector, railways is keen to bring in private companies to build and operate private rail in India just as like private airlines.

According to railway officials, these trains will operate on magnetic levitation (Maglev) technique, which allows trains to run at very high speed. The minimum speed of these trains will be 350km per hour. 


At present Maglev technology is used in countries like Japan, China, and Germany. An expression of interest has been issued by the Railway Ministry and private firms have been asked to submit their response by September 6. The modalities and specifications for the project will be finalised at a later stage.

The government proposed to undertake the Maglev project on a public private partnership (PPP) mode. Under this, the railways will provide land required for the project while the private firms will execute and operate the trains.

"The entire transportation infrastructure including railway stations, platforms, tracks, signal syetem, fare structure, and time table will be developed by the private firms while the land related issued will be taken care of by the railways. Revenue thus generated will be shared between the two parties," said a railway ministry official.

Sources in Rail Ministry said the proposal is in keeping with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision of taking railways to the age of high speed trains. While the railway ministry is working on several projects of bullet trains, high speed and semi-high speed trains, the Maglev trains will be a different experience all together.

This also assumes significance as the cash-strapped railways is exploring external sources of revenue to fund its projects. Of late, the railways have also been losing traffic to roads and air routes. For financial year 2015-16, the railways earned revenue of Rs 45,384 crore from passenger traffic against a target of Rs 50,175 crore. The target for the current financial year has been set at Rs 51,012 crore. 


Experts believe that the rail traffic may further reduce after the regional air connectivity is improved. However, to counter this aspect, the railways are identifying the routes so as to make the private rail network financially viable.

A senior official of the Ministry of Railways says four routes - Bengaluru-Chennai, Hyderabad-Chennai, New Delhi-Chandigarh and Nagpur-Mumbai - have been identified for the Maglev trains. Since these routes are heavily congested, Maglev trains will be a big respite for the passengers. Officials said trains on these routes are running nearly 120 per cent saturation.

"The Indian Government shall provide land for the 200 to 500 kilometre-long project while the company that will eventually bag the contract will be expected to design the Maglev train and build an elevated track for running the train; all this only after it successfully gives a demonstration of the Maglev systems over a distance of 10 to 15 km," the government proposal said. Globally, only a small number of countries have used the Maglev systems. These include Germany, China, Japan, South Korea and the US.

In China, the Maglev trains ply between Shanghai city and its airport, covering a distance of about 38 km. To make Maglev trains financially viable, the Indian Railways will also allow the private operator to introduce non-fare revenue models like wi-fi, movies, food and other add on services to be charged from passengers.


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