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Will privatisation of Indian Railways improve its services?

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New Delhi, July 09: The Indian Railways is working on an ambitous scheme to allow private operators to set up their own rail lines and run trains.

The Delhi-Lucknow Tejas Express aircraft-like luxury chair car service, is set to become the first train that will be operated by private players. The move is part of the proposal of the Railway Board in its 100-day plan to get private passenger train operators to provide world-class passenger services. This would also increase competition in the sector.

Representational Image

According to a report, the custody of the train will be transferred to IRCTC, which in turn will draw up a plan to rope in private operators for on-board services.

The Delhi-Lucknow Tejas Express was announced in 2016 but was introduced in the new time table released recently.

The train, one of the most-awaited trains on the route, is currently parked at the Annandnagar railway station in Uttar Pradesh and will be handed over to private players after an open bidding process for operationalisation.

The Delhi-Lucknow route is currently served by 53 trains but does not have a Rajdhani. While the Swarn Shatabdi has the highest demand on this route and takes around 6:30 hours.

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The IRCTC, which will be given the two trains to run initially, has been asked to finalise a proposal by July 10 and submit it to the Railway Board after a meeting of the Member, Traffic, with officials of the Railways' tourism and catering arm.

It should be noted that in its strategy for New India released in 2018, Niti Aayog too had advocated for more private participation in the sector, including ownership of locomotives and rolling stock, to modernising railway stations.

The proposal, however, has come under severe criticism from the railway unions, who have threatened large scale protests over the issue.

So, what are the key features?

  • Aircraft-like personalised LCD entertainment-cum-information screens; on-board WiFi
  • Comfortable seats, mobile charging points, personalised reading lights
  • Modular bio-toilets with sensor-based tap fittings
  • Orange and yellow colour-scheme seats; similar to the exterior of the Tejas Express
  • The train will run on all days of the week except Sunday and Thursday.
  • Windows with automatic venetian blinds; attendant calling buttons
  • Anti-graffiti vinyl wrapping; swanky mini-pantry
  • Fre and smoke detection and suppression system
  • LED lighting, CCTVs, dust sealed gangways
  • Automatic interconnecting doors between the coaches; automatic entry exit doors

Railway currently allows private parties to run freight trains on its tracks, though operations of the trains is still in hands of railways. The national transporter also runs a few luxury tourist trains in joint venture with state governments

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