An Indian woman sits inside a carriage as she waits for a train to leave Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station in New Delhi on February 25,2016. Indian Railway minister Suresh Prabhu is set to announce the Indian Railways Budget on February 25. AFP PHOTO / CHANDAN KHANNA
An Indian woman sits inside a carriage as she waits for a train to leave Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station in New Delhi on February 25,2016. Indian Railway minister Suresh Prabhu is set to announce the Indian Railways Budget on February 25. AFP PHOTO / CHANDAN KHANNA

The Indian Railways is likely to allow bids for the entry of private train operators by June 30. It has created 12 clusters on 109 routes for private operators. However, the COVID-19 pandemic and other issues raised by private operators have delayed the plan.

Likewise, the Railways is also slowly moving ahead with its Vande Bharat Express train project. This comes at a time when the second wave of COVID-19 has passed its peak and the number of operational trains has increased.

Both these ambitious plans of the Indian Railways were stalled for many reasons over the past few months. Moreover, the pandemic slowed the economy, tightened the purse strings of private players and also altered the way people use public transportation unlike in the past. “It is all rumours that there will be further delay in opening bids for private trains on June 30. Earlier, the private operators wanted more time,” said Suneet Sharma, chairman and CEO of the Railway Board, last week during an online press meet.

The previous deadline was March end which got postponed to June end. The Indian Railways are opening 12 clusters on 109 routes for 150 trains. Sources said that the number of companies that were interested in the bidding process have come down to less than 10 owing to the pandemic and other risks involved in the plan. Private trains are expected to bring in investments of Rs 30,000 crore. These include competition from Indian Railways run trains on the same route, high haulage charges and probable higher fares charged by private operators, amongst other things.

The manufacturing of rolling stock and transfer of technology shall happen in the next stage. Sources in the railways said that flexi-fare system of Indian Railways is also an issue wherein fares increase and decrease depending on the demand.

Meanwhile, the Indian Railways is once again stepping up the process to introduce Vande Bharat Express trains. Authorities claim that they expect the rakes to be manufactured by late 2022. 24 rakes will be produced at three production units of Integral Coach Factory in Chennai, followed by 10 rakes at Rail Coach Factory in Kapurthala and 10 rakes at Modern Coach Factory in Raebareli.

Earlier, this January, the Indian Railways finalised the tender for design, manufacture, development, integration, supply, testing, and commissioning of the IGBT-based three-phase propulsion, control, and other equipment for 44 rakes of Vande Bharat train sets, each consisting of 16 cars.

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