Why private trains alone will not be enough to modernise the railways

The entry of private operators in the provisioning of passenger train services by the Ministry of Railways is a welcome step. Given the supply side constraints, poor service levels, limited budgetary resources, and increasing competition from road and low-cost airlines, business as usual is no longer a sustainable option for railways.

This is the second significant initiative by the ministry to permit entry of private operators after container train services in 2006.

Twelve city bound clusters have been formed for the entry of private operators under the current initiative. In each cluster, a certain number of pre-defined origin destination pairs and the weekly frequencies of trains have been identified. In total, 151 trains on 109 routes are on the offer for prospective operators to bid for. Bids are invited for the clusters and not individual routes.

The bid criteria for selecting the successful bidder for each cluster is the premium offered to the government in the form of higher share in gross revenue.

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