As Indian Railways prepares the ground to get private players to operate passenger trains, it is likely to sweeten the deal by offering them land at almost no cost to set up facilities for maintenance of their trains, sources said.
It is learnt that as part of the Request for Proposal, Railways needs to identify land for greenfield maintenance depots across India where the private players will set up the maintenance facilities to run for the entire contract period of 35 years. In places where Indian Railways’ maintenance depots have space to spare, they will be exclusively allotted to private players. Railways will be responsible for rail and road connectivity to the locations where land will be given for setting up the private maintenance depots. Railways has maintained that this project is not to be construed as “privatization” of the railways.
Sources told The Indian Express that since private players are free to bring in trains with any technology, which most likely will be alien to India, the companies would need to set up their own maintenance facilities. As part of the deal, Railways will give them land to erect facilities or let them use its own facilities, for 35 years, without much of an additional financial encumbrance on the private player, in the interest of the overall viability of the project, to provide an enabling environment to the private player to operate, and also in the spirit of “public-private partnership”, sources said. However, after the completion of the contract period, the facilities will belong to Indian Railways, officials said, adding that the contract will be drawn like that. The discussions to this effect are on, sources have confirmed.
The 12 clusters, divided area wise, to be leased off to private players are in Jaipur, Prayagraj, Howrah, Chandigarh, Patna, Chennai, Secundrabad, Bengaluru, and two each for Delhi and Mumbai. Railways has asked its zones to identify land for such greenfield maintenance depots, preferably in these city-areas. A total of 109 routes have been identified in these clusters for 151 trains to be run by private players.
In addition, the private trains will also need to be washed, cleaned and inspected after every 7,000 km of running. For that, zonal railways have been asked to identify two-hour slots in existing washing lines for private trains in the 12 “clusters” across India for which private companies will be bidding.
A letter has gone out from the Railway ministry this week to its zonal railways to get the information, including the layouts of existing maintenance depots, to the ministry by August 7.
Sixteen private companies took part in the pre-application meeting last week for the Request for Qualification. Bombardier, Vedanta Group’s Sterlite, GMR, BHEL, Bharat Forge, Medha, Titagarh Wagons, IRCTC, RK Associates, and some global equity investment firms were among those that participated. In the run up to the deadline of the submission of the bids to qualify, Railways expects more big corporate names in India to join the fray. Private players will pay a haulage charge to railways to run the trains and also pay to Railways a share of their revenues from the operations. In rolling stock technology alone, Railways expects private players to spend around Rs 30,000 crore.
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