labels: industry - general, economy - general, infrastructure - general, railways
Laloo Prasad announces advisory panel on private sector participation news
10 October 2006

New Delhi: Railway Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav has announced that a consultative panel would soon be formed to advise the Indian Railways (IR) on areas of involving the private sector in the operations of Indian Railways. The panel would be have representation from government and railway experts, retired bureaucrats and industry.

However, the railways minister categorically ruled out private sector involvement in the core area of passenger movement as that was a social obligation, which IR would continue to provide for all segments of society. The minister said that the IR board would identify within one month, those areas where the cooperation of private sector could be put on the fast-track.

Speaking at a conference, organised by the PHDCCI, met to discuss reforms in IR, the minister also announced that the ministry was considering setting-up refrigerated and non-refrigerated agri-warehouses at major stations, under the public-private partnership model, to help Indian farmers get better returns on their produce through access to wider markets. The warehouses would be backed by agri-container trains that would connect the stations to market centers.

Speakers at the conference including senior officials of the Railway Ministry and the Railway Board, representatives of the Planning Commission, the undertakings under the Ministry of Railways, and leading members of the business community affiliated with the PHDCCI, highlighted the emerging areas for private sector in rail transportation including container trains.

Sushma Berlia, president PHDCCI said, "Our transport sector is required to grow by at least 10 per cent to sustain economic growth at 8 per cent per annum. Railways need to transport substantially higher volumes of cargo, not only at much higher speed and efficiency but at more competitive price."

Berlia pointed out that presently the Railways carry only a little over one-third of the total freight traffic and about one-fifth of the passenger traffic, which underlined the tremendous untapped potential of the rail infrastructure and the scope and opportunities for higher investment and growth. She hoped the private sector would be able to partner in this investment for progress - in creating higher capacity on the high-density corridors.

Capt. S. Vasudeva, chairman, transport committee, PHDCCI suggested that in order to augment IR's efforts, the private sector could be involved in non-core functions like upgradation and management of stations, modernisation of freight and cargo terminals, freight booking and ticketing, operation and maintenance of Yatri Niwas, exploitation of surplus land and improving road connectivity to rail cargo heads.

J P Batra, chairman Railway Board explained that the mandate of the newly constituted Rail Development Authority was already planning areas of private sector participation in exploitation of surplus IR's land, and modernisation of railway stations. He said with a pilot project was already underway at the New Delhi railway station and formulation of guidelines for private sidings and container trains. Batra mentioned that the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) would develop budget hotels on IR's land adjoining stations and to explore more luxury trains on the lines of the Palace on Wheels.

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Laloo Prasad announces advisory panel on private sector participation