The Journey So Far
> IRCTC is leasing out the Lucknow-Delhi and Ahmedabad-Mumbai Tejas Express trains to private players. Onboard services are being outsourced through an open bidding process; ticketing will stay with the IRCTC. The Indian Railways has identified 25 more routes and will offer 5 per cent of the total 2,800 rakes on lease to private players
> Infra projects to accelerate the speed of passenger trains (up to 160 kmph) on the Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Howrah stretches cleared. Projects will be completed by the end of FY 2023.
> Work on the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) between Delhi and Mumbai accelerated and the 1,506 km stretch may be ready by 2020 end. In the DFC connecting Ludhiana in Punjab and Dankuni in West Bengal, bidding is on for the PPP plan for the 538-km Sonnagar, Bihar-Dankuni stretch.
Is It Enough?
With annual capital outlays of over Rs 1.5 lakh crore, the Railways requires massive capacity augmentation and a corporate work culture. It should be transformed into a PSU-as a corporate entity, not only would its efficiency improve, but it would also have access to markets for capital. But this will require big reforms. The setting up of a regulator is crucial to ensure a level playing field for private investors and rationalisation of fares.
The Unfinished Agenda
> Labour unions have to be brought onboard
> Fares have to be rationalised. Regulator needed to fix tariff for fares and freight
> Railway board reformed, but decision-making hasn’t improved
> Indian Railways must be made a PSU, with a profit and loss balance-sheet of all divisions
> 3 more DFCs planned