Sunday, January 29, 2017

NEW DELHI: The Indian Railways will soon start leasing out its standalone passenger corridors and branch lines to private companies for operations and maintenance, marking the beginning of corporate participation in the running of the world's fourth largest railroad network. 

Narrow and metre-gauge tracks linking the colonial era hill stations are set to be the first of the 108,000-kilometer rail network to be run privately, a senior railway official told ET. 

Largely unprofitable routes linking Kalka and Shimla, Siliguri and Darjeeling, the NilgiriBSE 0.00 % mountains with the plains, Neral and Matheran, and the Kangra Valley railways would be among the first the government will likely choose to bid out to private operators, which may include overseas companies as the existing policy on investment in railways allows 100% foreign ownership. 

The Indian Railways, with a 1.54-million workforce and about 6,800 stations, runs about 7,000 trains everyday to ferry passengers, an activity that is generally unprofitable. In the financial year endingMarch 31, 2017, the losses from the passenger segment of the railroad operations are set to be about Rs 33,000 crore, about 10% higher than the losses for the previous financial year. 

Companies will also have the flexibility to maintain and own stations on these proposed private lines. They may also be allowed to set different fares on these lines after the approval of the upcoming Rail Development Authority of India, which will be free to recommend fares.


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