RAILWAYS … Plan to roll out 150 trains on 100 routes as part of privatization of Railways messed up by babus and politicos for long decades



NEW DELHI : Niti Aayog and Indian Railways have jointly introduced  plans to run 150 trains on 100 routes by private operators, and the total investment for which could be 22,500 crore. These trains would provide “world-class service experience to passengers and help in reducing the supply demand deficit.” The operators could be domestic or international entities, the discussion paper on the subject stated.

The  paper is titled ‘Private Participation: Passenger Trains’ and the 100 identified 100 routes cover, among others, the Howrah-Chennai, Howrah Patna, Mumbai Central-New Delhi, New Delhi- Patna, Allahabad-Pune, Dadar-Vadodara, Indore-Okhla, Lucknow-Jammu Tawi, Chennai-Okhla, Anand Vihar-Bhagalpur, Secunderabad-Guwahati and Howrah-Anand Vihar.
Rates for travel by these trains will be higher than the normal fare. The speed will also be faster in a scenario wherein Indian trains, a picture of ineptness of successive governments and incompetence of rulers/bureaucrats and others manning the railway board, ran at snail’s pace.
The set of identified private operators will have the right to collect market-linked fares and will be provided flexibility of class composition and halts. The privatisation of train operation, the paper said, will help in introducing modern technology and rolling stocks with reduced maintenance.

The Tejas Express on the Lucknow-Delhi route, which was flagged off on October 4, was the railways’ first experience of letting a non-railway operator run a train. The Tejas Express is run by railways’ subsidiary IRCTC. IRCTC has a slew of benefits worked out for its passengers — combination meals, free insurance of up to 25 lakh and compensation in case of delays. Tejas runs at speed of around 100km per hour, and no more, while China’s MagLev trains runs at a speed of over 600km per hour. The train runs on Magnetic Levitation technology, which meant the trains will float on the tracks, and not ‘run’ on the tracks.
The second Tejas Express, fielded by ITDC, made its inaugural run on Friday, logging a speed of less than 100km on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad route. The train, flagged off from Ahmedabad around 10am, reached Mumbai in six hours’ time, covering a distance of around 500km. The train was flagged off by chief minister Vijay Rupani. It arrived at Mumbai at 4.45pm.
Curiously, as is the wont with the Indian Railways, this time too the schedule for start of the train got delayed by over half an hour. The original plan was to start the train at 9.30am. Railway minister Piyush Goyal was scheduled to flag off the train, but he did not reach the spot for whatever reason. Reaching an event on time is generally not a concern for India’s lazy bums of politicians who step in as ministers and mess up with established governance systems. India famously has incompetent bureaucrats and more incompetent desi netas as ministers.

Railway officials claimed that at some sectors along the route, the train ran at a maximum of 130km per hour. The commercial run for this train starts from January 19.
The train is fully air-conditioned. It has two executive class chair cars with 56 seats each, and eight chair cars with seats of 78 each. The total carrying capacity is 736 passengers.
Indian Railways, introduced by the British initially to help the colonial rulers take out timber and other material from forests and interiors of the country to the ports, to be shipped to Britain, did not get sufficient attention during the rule of Desi leaders. Ministers who handled the Railways, like Mamata Banerjee, rather messed up with its functioning, and retarded its progress and took no interest in modernization. As Union minister, she spent most of her time airborne, flying between Delhi and Kolkata to do her politicking in West Bengal and promote the interests of her Trinamool Congress. Dr Manmohan Singh as prime minister looked on, blinking. 

Trade unionism by Communists in the Railways sector was another serious problem. Several trade union leaders are hugely corrupt, and part of rackets in the Railways. The Railway Board is allegedly steeped in corruption, as was evident also from the Pawan Kumar Bansal scam, involving bribe-taking and exit of the minister from the UPA government. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who started his first innings in 2014 with a promise of bullet trains, could not change the fortunes of the railways  much. The bullet train project is facing serious odds, the latest being the refusal of the new Shiv-Sena-NCP-Congress government in Maharashtra to pay up its share in the project. In his first term, Modi changed railway minister repeatedly, which also affected the functioning of the railways, in as much that there was no focused attention for a span of five years.
The Railway Board had in October last year formed an empowered group of secretaries, headed by Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant, to chalk out the modalities of the bidding process and take other decisions to fast-track awarding of bids to private players. – Agencies, IHN-NN

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