In order to win market share in non-bulk traffic, the Indian Railways has come up with a policy that would allow privately owned and run parcel trains. The policy aims at boosting investment in this vital infrastructure sector through public-private partnership (PPP) mode.

The ministry of railways (MoR) issued the new policy on November 10, to meet the future demand of traffic and thereby increase market share. Under the scheme, Category I includes general service parcel vans of minimum 20 wagons and maximum 24 and Category II includes special purpose vehicles like refrigerated vans, milk tankers etc of 15 or 24 wagons. A rake with mix of both categories will also be allowed to operate.

Railways now dominate transportation of bulk commodities like coal, ores, cement, and foodgrains but have been steadily losing out to road sector in non-bulk goods. This has been blamed on it not offering need-based innovative solutions to customers.

A senior Central Railway official told TOI privately procured wagons and vehicles would be inducted into service only after completion of mandatory safety and quality inspections by authorized agencies as notified by MoR.

Ownership of the special purpose train (SPT) shall be with the operator who procures the rake. Such rakes will be identified as exclusively belonging to the investor. The announcement of SPTs was first made by then railway minister Mallikarjun Kharge in the UPA-2 government on February 12 in interim budget. In July, a draft policy was framed and comments sought from the 16 railway zones. From November 10, the policy has come into effect.

“One of the ideas is to replace the existing parcel vans attached to mail/express trains with passenger coaches. This will help railways improve both, efficiency and revenue. Lot of time is wasted on loading and unloading parcel vans detaining the trains and also causing congestion on platforms. Dedicated parcel vans will remove these hurdles,” the official explained. The scheme is likely to benefit transport and logistics, warehousing, wagon leasing and manufacturing companies from the region.

Under the scheme, rakes may be procured by the customers directly from wagon manufacturers or through import. However, such wagons will be inducted after the nod from Railway Design & Standards Organization (RDSO), Lucknow. The railways also plan to provide maintenance facilities at nominated base depots at 5% per annum of the capital cost of private wagons. This will be reviewed every three years.

On the doubts regarding unscheduled repairs and damages raised by a section investors from the region, the railway official said in case of accidents, the cost of repairs shall be charged to the railways or the investor depending on who is found responsible for the accident as per inquiry report.

Private parcel trains coming

* Who is eligible: Registered company under Companies Act 1956, JV firms, public sector cos and group of cos with a net worth of Rs 20 crore or annual turnover of Rs 30 crore.

* Procedure: The investor will have to apply to executive director (freight marketing), MoR. Order for at least one rake is a must with 4 per cent maintenance spares and one brake-van.

* Haulage charges: This will be levied for individual wagons as per its originating destination station on actual distance basis.

* Operations: The SPTs will operate on fixed path with scheduled timetable. The train operator on behalf of customers shall be responsible for paying various taxes.