You could soon see a 'Pepsi Rajdhani' or a 'Coke Shatabdi' on the tracks as Indian Railways has readied a plan for branding trains and stations to augment revenue without raising passenger fares or freight rates.
The proposal is expected to get the approval of the Railway Board next week, according to a Times of India report. Under the new policy, a company can buy consolidated media rights for branding the entire train. It can then advertise both inside and outside the bogies.
"The Railways has shunned the earlier approach of selling advertisement rights on a piecemeal basis and is ready with plans to award media rights for the entire train (both inside and outside) and stations on a long-term basis to big corporate players," said a senior official.
The move comes after the PM's acceleration at a meeting, where he asked the ministry to buckle up and increase revenues from alternative sources like tapping advertisement potential. Currently, the Railways is targeting Rs2,000 crore in non-fare revenue.
Apart from this, the plan is to modernise the stations with world class facilities and make it more creative. Since the option for hiking passenger fares is out of the window, owing to state elections in five states, this is the sole option.
This is not the first time that railway has opted for such a move. Passengers might remember the colourful trains from last year, with printing even across the windows. Railways sold vinyl wrapping advertisements on the exteriors of four trains with an aim to earn over Rs8 crore a year, but the move went out of the window as it was too passenger-unfriendly, with the view from windows being blocked.
Observers see the latest move as not much less gross; they say the venerable Railways will look truly cheap with 'Coke' or 'Pepsi' branded trains – a move not seen anywhere else in the world.
Now among other proposals, huge LED screens will come up at stations, platforms and foot overbridges (leading to station areas) for advertising.
The train branding packages will be offered through bidding in a phased manner, starting with Rajdhani and Shatabdi services. The Railways is also trying to reach big names from the advertising world for spaces on trains, level crossings and areas along tracks, besides offering major platforms for installing over 2,000 ATMs.