Indian Railways has identified toilets as one of the 17 special areas where 100 per cent foreign (foreign direct investment – FDI) and private investment can bring about major investments.
According to the guidelines approved by the government under its FDI policy, 100 per cent FDI can be utilised in facilities like cleaning up trains and installation of bio-toilets in passenger coaches and setting up of mechanised laundry facilities.
It is a step forward to invite private and foreign investment in the Railways as new areas have been identified for FDI, said a senior Railway Ministry official, adding that “total 17 areas are now thrown open under the guidelines”.
A committee constituted by Railway Ministry to finalise the policy has also suggested a set of business models to attract investments.
Besides bio-toilets, cleaning operation and mechanised laundries, the areas identified by the committee for FDI include construction, maintenance and operation facilities to supply non-conventional sources of energy to the Railways, installation and maintenance of bio-toilets in passenger trains, setting up of technical training institutes, testing facilities and laboratories and providing technological solutions to improve safety.
Earlier, the government had relaxed the FDI norms permitting 100 per cent investment in rail projects, such as high-speed trains, suburban service, dedicated freight corridors, freight and passenger terminals.
The FDI is also being permitted for rail route electrification, signalling system and logistics parks.
The committee has suggested three business models for high-speed train projects including projects where there are limits on operations and a firm wants to invest in upgrading the existing rail network for speed above 120 km per hour or semi-high speed network.
In dedicated freight lines, the Railways has permitted operations by investors, subject to certain conditions.
The government has now allowed mechanised laundry facilities to be set up on public-private partnership (PPP) basis. It also suggested some freight lines — new and doubling — that could be taken up on PPP basis.