As many as 23 firms, including major players such as Alstom Transport, Bharat Forge, Sterlite Power, IRCTC, Titagarh Wagons, Bombardier Transportation, BEML and L&T Infrastructure Development Projects, have shown interest in running private trains in India.

On Wednesday, the Railways held the second pre-bid meeting on this project even as the national transporter took several new steps, including sharing of route-specific passenger traffic data with private bidders, to whet the interest of the bidders.

The Railways had invited 12 Requests for Qualification from private players to run passenger trains on 109 important routes.

For the project, which requires a ₹30,000-crore investment, the Railways has also slashed the document purchasing fee by a tenth to about ₹23,000 to attract more private participation. Purchasing the document allows players to participate in the pre-bid meetings.

Since the first pre-bid meeting in July, more players, including developers and funds like Asia Infrastructure and L&T Infrastructure, have purchased the document to bid to run private trains, stated the Railways after the virtual meeting of potential players it hosted on Wednesday. The Ministry has also shared traffic data, draft concession agreement, draft feasibility report and draft manual for standards and specifications of trains. Earlier, the national transporter had planned to share these documents and the data on traffic and concession agreement with the players only at the financial bidding stage. That said, the route-wise data is for fiscal 2019, before Covid-19 struck.

Maintenance experience

To ensure serious bidders participate, the Railways has specified the requisite operation and maintenance experience.

The Railways also clarified that complete freedom will be given to the private partner in procurement of trains, which can either be purchased or taken on lease. Additionally, the Railways has specified the money that companies have to pay it as haulage charges.

The Railways said that it has appointed RITES, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India, and L&L (former Luthra and Luthra Law Offices) as consultants, and that they cannot be hired as consultants by the private players. This is to prevent any conflict of interest, a Railway official said.

According to Railway sources, some bidders have asked for more time to submit the qualifying documents.

The Wednesday meeting was part of a series the Railways has organised, post-Covid, in its bid to run private trains. It has been consulting companies on their concerns over the contract documents it has floated. After the first pre-application conference, the Ministry reduced the fee for purchasing the qualifying document by a tenth for participating in more than one project, removed the cap of three projects per bidder, and clarified that leasing of trains is allowed.

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