Is this the first step towards total privatization of Indian Railways?

Total privatization of Indian Railways

An ambitious scheme is taking its shape silently behind the closed doors of Indian Railway ministry. Under this scheme Rail Ministry is framing ways to give birth to private players to run their own trains parallel to Indian Railways. To run private trains rail ministry will also allow private players to set up their own lines across the country. 

A top rail official quotes - "Railway will charge private operators on trains run by them, however they will be allowed to build their own infrastructure. Also, a private player can build their own rail line but it can allow third party to run trains on it." 

Although at this time it can be said that all these plans are in its very initial stage and feasibility of all these ideas is yet to be established. It is still unclear that private players will be allowed to compete directly in passenger train category or railway ministry will limit them to freight only or both. 

Rail official said that, "We are looking into both passenger and freight. It is possible that private players may enter into both type of train categories." 

At present private players are allowed to run their freight trains on tracks of Indian Railways. However, these trains might be owned by private companies but operation is still in hands of Indian Railways. On the other hand, some tourist trains like Palace on wheels or Royal Rajasthan is currently being operated under joint venture with state governments. 

Besides operation of trains by private players, several other areas of Indian Railways are already being privatised, such as through auction of 23 railway stations across the country under Public Private Partnership (PPP). 

Through PPP, railway wants to modernise these stations and will allow developers to build malls, hotels, multiplex and special hospitals within the station premises. 

Once auctioned, firms will be granted lease of 45 years and throughout these years railway will grant rights to exploit all these stations commercially. The firms will also be allowed to maintain all the station facilities like power, platform maintenance, parking, food stalls, retiring rooms, etc. 

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