Containerised traffic in India is growing at a rate of 15-20% per annum, Mr Prasad said. Over the next five years, this traffic is expected to increase from 55 million tonne to 110 million tonne. Under the policy, permission for running container trains would be given to companies and individuals registered in India with an annual turnover or net worth of Rs 100 crore or more.
Though the policy had been announced in railway budget 2005-06, it has taken the ministry a whole year to finalise it. The policy paper, which was to facilitate the entry of private players in container traffic, got delayed, as it was withdrawn once due to differences between various stakeholders involved.
In fact, in October 2004, the railway ministry had given its consent to Pipavav Rail Corporation Ltd (PRCL) to transport containers by rail. After that, various level of discussions were held to chalk out possibilities of private player involvement.
Giving details about the policy, Mr Yadav said that an applicant should either have a rail-linked inland container depot (ICD) or within a period of six months of making his application, give an assurance that he will construct his own rail-linked ICD in three years, or he will arrange to furnish a lease agreement with an existing rail-linked ICD owner.
He said that the rail routes connected with ports have been grouped together in four categories, with the exception of the Delhi-Mumbai route. Applicants for other routes will have to pay a registration fee of Rs 10 crore and will also be allowed to domestic container trains all over India except Delhi-Mumbai route.
Applicants for the Delhi-Mumbai route will be permitted to operate exim container trains on the other three categories also, and domestic traffic all over India paying a registration fee of Rs 50 crore, Mr Yadav said. He also said that the permission to operate container trains will be valid for a period of 20 years, which will be extendable by another 10 years, subject to satisfactory working by the applicant.
The process of registration and the policy of container train movement will be uniformly applicable to all applicants including Concor, he said, adding All companies will be given a level-playing field without any discrimination. In the operation of container trains, the minister said, that the principle of first-cum-first-served will be followed. While railways will provide engines and drivers, the applicant will have to provide bogies and procure its own rolling stock required for the movement of container trains, the minister said.
The railways, he said, may also consider allowing use of its surplus lands for the construction of ICD and multi-modal logistic parks. In the first quarter of the coming financial year, 2006-07, the minister said the railways will make all possible efforts to introduce double stack container trains.
This step would reduce the unit cost of operations and enable container traffic to be moved at more competitive rates.