Railways goes to private hands
- Govt to form empowered group to privatise 150 trains, 50 rly stations
- No one can privatise Railways, Piyush Goyal had told the Parliament
New Delhi : The government is in the process of forming a task force to draw a blueprint for handing over operations of 150 trains and 50 railway stations to private operators in a "time-bound manner".
A letter from Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant to Chairman Railway Board VK Yadav said an empowered group will be constituted to "drive the process".
Besides Yadav and Kant, Secretary, department of economic Affairs and Secretary, ministry of housing and urban affairs will be part of the empowered group.
Kant said while the railways was required to take up 400 railway stations for development into world class stations, very few have been upgraded so far.
"I had a detailed discussion with the Minister of Railways wherein it was decided that there is a necessity to take up the matter on priority for at least 50 stations.
Considering the recent experience in privatisation of six airports a similar process for setting up an empowered group of secretaries to drive the process in a time bound manner... "
As you are already aware that the ministry of railways has also decided to bring in private train operators for passenger train operations and is contemplating to take up 150 trains in the first phase," said Kant.
He also said Member, Engineering Railway Board and Member, Traffic Railway Board must be involved in the empowered group. The Tejas Express on Lucknow-Delhi route, which was flagged off on October 4, is the railways' first experience of running a train by non-railway operator, its own subsidiary, IRCTC.
IRCTC has a slew of benefits worked out for its passengers - combination meals, free insurance of up to Rs 25 lakh and compensation in case of delays.
The government has no plans to privatise the Railways, but is open to allowing private investment in setting up high-speed, semi-high speed lines, Minister of Railways Piyush Goyal had said in the Lok Sabha in July this year.
During a discussion on the demand for grants for the Railways, Goyal said: "No one can privatise the railways."