Indian Railways is planning to run 150 private trains on 100 routes across the country. Of these, 11 pairs of trains either originate from or terminate at Panvel. Indian Railways is also considering to operate two pairs of private trains from the proposed new railway terminus at Parel and three pairs from Bandra terminus, including the one that will originate from Akola.
A senior officer of Railway Board told Mirror on Wednesday, ''All these identified routes are subject to completion of infrastructure-related works, including the proposed Parel terminus.''
Panvel station was originally opened as a rail freight transport in 1962, for limited service to Diva railway station. Regular commuter service began in 1964 for passengers headed to Khopoli. At present, upgradation of Panvel terminus is underway.
According to a Central Railway official, construction of three more platforms is underway and will be completed in the next 18 months. Besides, construction of a new maintenance depot at Kalamboli is also going on. This will serve the Panvel terminus.
When asked why Panvel was preferred over stations in Mumbai for being the hub for private trains, a senior officer said the suburban section of Mumbai is saturated, so the railways decided to introduce more trains from Panvel terminus. The terminus is growing at a fast speed in terms of passenger traffic, he said.
In addition to this, the railways was looking for routes that would cause minimum disturbance to the traffic on Mumbai suburban section.
These trains will be plying according to the revenue-sharing model, which is preferred by the government for being less controversial than the profit-sharing model, the officer said.
Bids for running the private trains will be invited in the next two weeks. As per the plan, the trains will be operational by 2023.
The railway officials say that the addition of these trains will enhance the status of Indian Railways. The unions, however, claim that the move will only end the national transporter's monopoly, at least to the extent of running trains.
The trains to be run by the private operators will offer world-class technology and services to passengers to improve their journey experience, according to the Indian Railways' plan.
The Railway Board, the apex decision- making body of Indian Railways, in October formed an empowered group of secretaries to define the modalities of the bidding process and take decisions to award projects in a time-bound manner. The move will ultimately permit private companies to operate 150 passenger trains.
According to the plan, the infrastructure, maintenance, operations and safety will be handled by Indian Railways. Private train operators can take trains on lease and provide better on-board experience and services to the passengers, in terms of food, comfort, and entertainment.
A formal announcement about the plan is yet to be made.
To get experience of managing the idea of trains run by private operators, the tourism and catering arm of the national transporter, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corp. Ltd (IRCTC), launched the state-of-the-art high-speed Tejas Express between Delhi and Lucknow in October 2019.
The second such train is all set to be flagged-off on January 17. It will run between Ahmedabad and Mumbai.
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