Several developed countries in the world, such as USA, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Japan etc have a thriving private railways network. Trains, routes, passengers etc are fully handled by these private players, and the Govt. has no interference.
Can this model of private railways be implemented in India?
If we believe fresh reports coming in, then Railways Officials do want such privatization of Railways in India.
But the big question: Is it even feasible?
Railways Officials: Privatization Of Passenger Trains Is Good
During an event organized by Centre for Transportation, Research and Management recently, a Senior Railways Board member suggested privatization of passenger trains in India.
Girish Pillai, Railway Board member (Traffic) was quoted as saying that Railway Board is having internal discussions over privatization of both passenger trains and freight operations, and some concrete announcements can be made soon.
As per Girish, the main focus of these internal discussions are two questions:
- Whether the private players be allowed to fix fares of the routes they are managing? Or the fares should be in Govt. control.
- Should these private players be allowed to construct their own terminals, wherein passengers can be charged for amenities and services?
Girish said, “There have been many changes in the operation of trains across the world and I believe that it is a time that India should discuss the option of allowing private operators in the operation of passenger trains”
Is Privatization Feasible In India?
Since January last year, talks and rumors were floating regarding the idea of privatization of railways.
In 2017, Indian Railways allowed private players to construct a 5-star railway station in Bhopal, which was hailed as India’s first private railway station.
As per various reports, more than 600 such private railway stations will be built by private players in the coming years.
In February this year, Railways Minister hinted that privatization of Railways can happen, and this surprised everyone.
However, in July last year, Railways Minister Piyush Goel backtracked and issued a statement that privatization of Indian Railways will never happen, and it will always remain under 100% control of Govt.
He had categorically stated: “Let me make it very clear that there are no plans to privatise railways, either now or ever,”
As of now, only few aspects of Indian Rail operations are partially privatized: Manufacturing of some good wagons, under strict Govt. control, construction of railway stations (which is still underway), booking tickets via apps/websites, which use IRCTC’s main servers.
Railway Employee unions have always been against privatization of Railways (because it will induce more accountability?), and this is indeed a sensitive issue.
It would be interesting to observe how the Railways Ministry responds to the issue of privatization now.
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