Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has advocated the need for having a regulatory mechanism independent of the service provider for attracting private capital into Indian Railways.
“A regulatory mechanism is specifically required for it. That is why we are having regulatory framework so that private participation does not compromise public interest, does not hamper public function. Private sector also need not worry about the security of their investment. We have to trade off the balance between private and public,” Prabhu said in an interview.
Asked about the contours of the proposed regulatory body, he said “like all regulators on telecom, power or Sebi.”
He further said, “Arvind Pangarayia has been requested to suggest a road map. He is independent, very intellectual, very competent and also part of our system as he is vice chairperson in NITI Ayog. He met me recently and we discussed the issue. Once he is ready with with the model, we will have wider discussion and we will put it on website for comments.”
Railways is offering projects relating to capacity augmentation, betterment of passenger amenities and high speed service among others for private participation.
On the recent CBI raid on the alleged under-reporting of the actual weight of loaded goods wagons through the manipulation of software, Prabhu said it was a joint action to remove corruption.
“When we discovered that there could be a possibility of under-weighing, we asked our vigilance to go into the root cause, investigate and take action. It’s a joint action and we have clear instruction to our vigilance department that go to the root cause.
“Earlier I had lodged complaint with police for recruitment scam in railways. Somebody was sending letters that you have got the job immediately so deposit money in some account. FIR was filed at different locations. The whole idea is to bring in transparency and remove corruption.”
In order to arrest the fall in passenger segment, Prabhu said a strategy is being worked out to provide an integrated transport solution for cities in coordination with states.
Acknowledging the decline in passenger segment, Prabhu said, “We are losing passengers in short distance trains. People find it very difficult to reach stations also. Bus can take them from anywhere to anywhere. We do not have point to point service. We provide service from station to station.”
“For short distance travel like five km or even 50 km distance travel, bus can take you from one point to another directly while for train you have to come first station, that is why we are losing.”
However, he said, railways is planning a strategy for an integrated transport solution as part of measures to arrest the fall.
The total numbers of passengers booked during the financial year 2014-15 were 8227.99 million compared to 8425.09 million during the same period last year, showing a decrease of 2.34 per cent.
Prabhu said, “We are taking corrective steps. We are working for an integrated transport solution for cities. That’s the only way. It is in my budget proposals also and we are working for it.
“There should be an integrated ticket also like same ticket applicable in bus, metro, train. We are planning it. It will be happening over a period of time. It will be for common people. This is one of the fundamental problems, We have to tackle it.”
Asked to elaborate on the plan, he said, “We have talked to several states and cities like Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai. I also spoke to Mamata Banerjee and I will go to Kolkata for this. We will together plan it so that there is an integrated strategy for it (transportation system).”