The GMR group, which owns and operates two airports in the country, Bombardier India, Spanish coach and component maker CAF, PSUs RITES and Bharat Heavy Electricals are among 16 companies which have shown interest in the private train project, sources said on Tuesday.
The other companies include the Hyderabad-based Medha Group, which had bid for the Train 18 project, RK Associates and Railways” tourism and catering arm IRCTC Sterlite Power, Bharat Forge and JKB Infrastructure, they said.
The 16 firms attended a pre-application conference on the private train project held on Tuesday. The Railways has, however, officially not revealed the names of the companies which participated in the meeting.
The Railways had invited 12 Request for Qualifications for private participation in operation of passenger train services over 109 origin-destination pair of routes through introduction of 151 modern trains (rakes) which shall be in addition to the existing trains operated on the network.
This is the first initiative of private investment for running passenger trains over the Indian railway network. The project would entail private sector investment of about Rs 30,000 crore.
In a statement, the Railways said the initiative was to improve the availability of transportation services, introduce modern technology rolling stock and services to improve the overall travel experience of passengers.
“Multiple operators in train operations will create competition and improve service delivery. This initiative is also intended at reducing demand supply deficit in the passenger transportation sector,” the statement said.
The private entities for undertaking the project will be selected through a two-stage competitive bidding process comprising Request for Qualification (RFQ) and Request for Proposal (RFP).
During the meeting, the statement said, the issues and concerns raised by the prospective applicants were discussed and clarifications were provided by the officials of Ministry of Railways and NITI Aayog on the provisions of RFQ and bidding framework.
The queries were mainly related to eligibility criteria, bid process, procurement of rakes, operations of trains and composition of clusters. There were queries on haulage charges for which officials said that haulage charges will be specified upfront and suitably indexed for the entire concession period, thereby bringing certainty in the haulage charges.
The Ministry of Railways has clarified that trains to be operated under the project can be either purchased or taken on lease by the private entities.
It has also clarified that risks with regard to operation of trains shall be allocated to the parties in an equitable manner.
Written replies to the queries received from the prospective applicants will be provided by July 31, 2020. The second pre-application conference is scheduled on 12 August 2020.
The Railways plans to begin private train operations by March 2023, with 12 trains, according to an internal projection. By 2027, the Railways plans to bring in 151 such services.