New Delhi: With the Tejas Express, the first IRCTC-operated passenger service, ready to be flagged off from Lucknow on October 4, the Indian Railways is firming up concrete plans to offer about 150 trains at an estimated cost of Rs 22,500 crore to private players in the next two-three years.
Reeling under mounting losses of nearly Rs 42,000 crore in passenger business, the Railways will lease out 50 routes, including high-demand ones, such as Delhi-Mumbai, Delhi-Patna, Mumbai-Chennai, Howrah-Chennai and Howrah-Mumbai and Delhi-Howrah, to private players through the bidding process.
Besides metro destinations, inter-city routes are also up for grabs as the national transporter is not averse to the idea of phasing out all major paths in high-density routes.
The bidding document being readied by the Railways envisages a train operator to bid for minimum 12 trains and maximum of 50 trains which include overnight and day-long trains.
Private operators are given freedom to either purchase new trains or acquire it from the Railways on lease, according to the tender conditions.
Railways will float the tender shortly after finalising the bidding documents.
Since this is the first time in the country that the public transporter is allowing private train operators to run passenger service, many factors are being taken into account before finalising the document, Railway sources said.
While private players are keen to import customised trains and are seeking dedicated routes to ensure punctuality, the Railways has to take a final call on the issue.
While the signalling system, loco pilots and platform will remain with the Railways, catering, onboard housekeeping, ticket checking, infotainment and other amenities will be the train operator's responsibility.
IRCTC or Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation, a Railways subsidiary, has been nominated by the state-run transporter to run Tejas Express on the Delhi-Lucknow and Mumbai-Ahmedabad routes as a pilot project for exploring the market to run full-fledged private train service in the passenger segment.
IRCTC will pay nearly Rs 13 lakh per day in haulage and lease charges and is expected to generate about Rs 16 lakh to 17 lakh per day in revenue from the Delhi-Lucknow Tejas Express.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath will flag off the Lucknow-Delhi Tejas Express on October 4. The train will cover the journey between the cities in six hours and 15 minutes about an hour less than the Shatabdi service. It will begin its journey from Lucknow at 6.10 a.m and reach Delhi at 12.25 p.m. with halts at Kanpur and Ghaziabad.
Tejas Express will have one executive class AC chair car with 56 seats and nine AC chair car coaches with a capacity of 78 passengers in each coach.
In order to attract passengers, IRCTC has offered many value-added service like the facilities of taxi hiring, hotel bookings to passengers who need it on the payment basis.
However, the facility of booking tickets on Tatkal quota will not be available for Delhi-Lucknow Tejas Express.
Unlike the 120-day advance booking allowed across the railway network, Tejas Express will allow such booking 60 days prior to the day of journey.
The Lucknow to New Delhi ticket prices for IRCTC's Tejas Express will be ₹1,125 for AC chair car and ₹2,310 for executive chair car.
While a ticket on the reverse journey will cost ₹1,280 for AC chair car passengers and ₹2,450 for those opting for executive chair car.
The writer is an independent journalist based in Delhi.