File image of crew members on the Lucknow-New Delhi Tejas Express, India's first privately-operated train | Photo: PTI
Tejas Express crew seen inside the train in its early days | Representational image | PTI
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New Delhi: The Tejas Express launched between Lucknow and New Delhi on 4 October is being labelled India’s first ‘private’ train. While it’s not exactly that, it is a big step towards the privatisation of the railways, and its success could eventually lead to the end of the Indian Railways’ monopoly on trains in India.

The Tejas Express will run six days a week, except Tuesdays, leaving Lucknow at 6.10 am and reaching New Delhi at 12.25 pm, with the return journey starting at 3.35 pm and ending at 10.05 pm.

The physical infrastructure of the train — locomotives, coaches, loco pilots, guards and security personnel — will remain in the Indian Railways’ hands, while the services provided, including ticketing and refunds, parcels, catering and housekeeping, will be contracted to private players through the railways’ subsidiary company IRCTC under the public-private partnership (PPP) model.

The IRCTC has signed concession agreements with private service providers, according to which operators will share their profits with the IRCTC, which in turn will pay haulage charges to the railways.

The Tejas Express, in fact, is the product of a seven-member committee set up to look into the privatisation of the railways under the chairmanship of NITI Aayog member and economist Bibek Debroy in September 2014. The committee had recommended that Indian Railways be allowed private sector competition, and suggested that all the things that aren’t germane to the operation of the railways, such as construction, be handed over to the private sector.

On-board experience

Tejas Express passengers will be greeted on-board by airline-style hostesses and stewards, who have been especially trained in courteous behaviour.

Passengers will be served three meals in the just-over-six-hour-long journey.

Another distinctive feature of the train will be refunds in case the train gets delayed — each passenger will receive Rs 100 if the train is delayed by over an hour, and Rs 250 if it is delayed by over two hours. The payments will be processed by the IRCTC on its own without passengers needing to file Ticket Deposit Receipts or TDRs.

Each passenger will be insured for a sum of Rs 25 lakh, and in case of theft or robbery, Rs 1 lakh will be paid out as compensation.


Also read: Chennai Express a hit, Railways now wants restaurant inside cast-off coaches across India


Ticketing and concessions

The Tejas Express will follow a dynamic pricing model, as decided by the IRCTC. The base fare for the Lucknow-New Delhi route will be Rs 1,125 for AC Chair Car and Rs 2,310 for Executive Chair Car, while the corresponding fares for the New Delhi-Lucknow route will be Rs 1,280 and Rs 2,450, respectively.

A senior official of the Railway Board told ThePrint: “The railways will not come in the way of IRCTC in deciding on services inside the train or fixing the fare. We have told them that if they run into losses, then they may reduce the fare (to attract more passengers). Now the market forces will decide the fares for this train.”

Railway Board executive director R.D. Bajpai added: “In terms of services offered to the passengers, IRCTC can decide everything because the reason for handing over the responsibility of running a train to a private player is to provide world-class facilities to the passengers.”

However, this does mean that passengers will not be able to avail of any concessions they would get on regular trains — which means no subsidised fares for senior citizens, cancer patients, students or even railway staff.

The Railway Board official said: “If you want to run a private train with world-class facilities, it is not possible to offer subsidised fares. Even a railway employee will not get any concession to travel in this train.”

Nor will Tejas Express have the Tatkal booking facility. The advance reservation period will be 60 days, and tickets will have to be purchased from the IRCTC website. Ticket cancellations will result in a full refund.

Is it really ‘private’?

In a word, no. The Railway Board official quoted above said: “We are still in monopoly. It is our train, our tracks and our own guards. The train is under our control.

“There are certain conditions on which we have given the train to IRCTC. But since the IRCTC has also outsourced it to private vendors, we have given some liberty in terms of deciding the menu, fare and services inside the train. However, we will keep a close watch over whatever they do. We cannot allow them to do whatever they wish to because there are certain norms to be followed.”

What next?

If the experiment proves successful, it could hasten the privatisation of the railways, starting with semi-high speed trains like Tejas and Vande Bharat Express. The railways have already identified 50 trunk routes on which the scheme could be expanded, and feasibility studies are being carried out.

Private operators could even be allowed to procure their own rolling stock from abroad, unlike right now, when they have to be manufactured in India.


Also read: Delhi-Katra Vande Bharat Express to run from 5 Oct, only veg food likely on the menu


 

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18 Comments Share Your Views

18 COMMENTS

  1. Hostess ???? That on train???? That on UP ??? Where full of goons, immoral politicians & their endless relatives who belive girls as objects….

    What about security of their employees..Leave passengers aside…..

    • Deepak, pardon my thought, we should thank The Print for finding space for such positive news in the midst of all the chaos in the country. I agree U.P. isn’t exactly the ideal place to launch a modern train – nevertheless, I suppose the officials who conceived and executed the project should be lauded for having a futuristic outlook. I couldn’t agree more about the lecherousness of ‘some’ North Indian males but if the experience of Delhi Metro is something to go by, maturity of general public might improve with the passage of time. God bless India .

  2. Road transport has been privatized based on the same logic & we know how they fleece passengers & how unclean the buses are! They also exploit low level staff. Is this going to happen to IR also?

  3. Public Transport Railway and bus service are for ordinary folks and handing over them to private players is anti people. My question is are private players giving good service in airlines, WiFi, phone etc as once they get customers, service take back seat and it slowly turning from bad to worst. If privitisation is good solution, why not allow private players to run government in place politicians. Atleast we don’t need to waste our time and money electing new government every five. Obviously government has accepted its failure to run public utility efficiently and make staff to work

  4. China has the concept of hostesses in the train. They receive the passenger, check tickets, direct the passenger to the seat. And when the train starts, they put on the janitor’s dress, pick up cleaning and mopping tools and work to keep the compartment and washrooms clean. Functional. No showbiz

  5. This is going to end in failure … If market forces are going to dictate the price , then the business owner must be free to change the product / service to adapt to market forces , putting such silly restrictions will result in disaster .

  6. The fare is comparable with Shatabdi. Atleast we can expect better service and clean wash rooms unlike in Shatabdi. This is a first step towards full privatisation. Infact IR should only be responsible for maintaining tracks, signalling and stations properly and private companies can be allowed to get their own rolling stock and run the service. Competition will ultimately make fares affordable and also improve service.

    • Iam not happy with privitisation of indian railways. People like you are blind supporters of privitisation. Role of private players should be limited to providing amenities on board train, catering , ticketing etc. operations like signalling, guards, loco pilots must be under control of indian railways

  7. its an all AC train, and a long distance one. Ridiculous to have so called hostesses, even in the west trains don’t have this kind of nonsense. You can imagine everything will be filthy.
    Does this also mean the food service and catering in many trains is “world class” under “private players”?
    Railways is giving all its profitable sections like AC coach trains to private and there is huge scope for corruption

  8. The Train mgr concept is good.
    however the dynamic fare may bring loss as the fare touches close to air fare then people go by air.
    also each coach should have 2 comode and 2 indian toilets .not present configuration of 1 &3.

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