New Delhi: The Indian Railways will allow private companies that are mandated to modernize railway stations to also maintain, and earn revenue from, waiting rooms, parking lots, sanitation facilities and other services at the stations.
Until now, the railway ministry had maintained that the private players would earn their revenues by developing additional commercial space in the station complexes they are developing. However, Mint has now learnt that they would be allocated some more operations that were so far carried out by the railway zones concerned.
The model concession agreement being prepared by the railways in consultation with the Planning Commission, the nation’s top planning body, will incorporate clauses to extend these rights to the private players.
The railways had decided to develop 22 railway stations, including the one in New Delhi, under the station modernization project to make them “world class” facilities.
According to officials involved in the implementation of the project but did not want to be named, the new services allocated are in addition to the commercial space in the station area that will be allotted to the private players.
“The railways will keep only their core business in these stations. This means that they (railways) will run trains, maintain tracks and signalling. All activities associated with hospitality and hygiene will be taken care of by the company awarded the contract for development of these stations,” said an official.
He said the private players should be allowed to earn to their potential as they were to make huge investments in these projects. (As per an estimate, New Delhi railway station modernization, for instance, would need an investment of about Rs5,000 crore.)
This will be the first instance of the railways outsourcing railway station management to private players.
According to another railway official, the private players will also be allowed to issue licences to eateries and other vendors who may want to do business at the railway stations. The Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), which issues the licences now, would also continue to do so. “There will be some competition between the IRCTC stalls and the ones for which licences have been issued by the private developer,” said the official.
Basudeb Acharia, chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on railways, said this was an unwise move on the part of the railway ministry. “This is a very dangerous trend. Management of the railway stations too is a core business of the railways and they should not hand it over to the private sector. We will object to this move during the standing committee meetings,” he said.
Railway board chairman K.C. Jena was unavailable for comment.
Railway officials maintained that railway personnel now doing these services will not lose their jobs. “These workers would be accommodated and given new responsibilities,” said an official involved in the project.