The ministry plans to use customised containers of 2 metre each. This will enable it to run double stack container trains on both electrified and non-electrified routes. According to initial estimates, every rake will be able to transport about 360 cars.
However, the small size of the containers will allow for transport of light cars weighing about 1 tonne each.
The ministry is at present finalising freight rates, and would then come out with a comprehensive business policy in the next few months.
A Rail Bhawan official said the business would be open to all of the 15 container operators.
However, they would have to procure their own wagons for carrying the automobiles. He added that Pipavav Rail Corporation Ltd, which had initially proposed the idea, is already working on this.
Container Corporation Of India (CCI), which has been planning a foray into the auto carrier business with Japanese shipping company NYK, will have to wait some more. Sources said the railway ministry has asked it to rework its business plans as it is coming out to be too expensive.
The railways are planning to use specialised containers for the venture, whose design and specifications they have already finalised
Its major customers include Maruti, Hyundai, Tata Motors, Mahindra and Mahindra and Hero Honda. Suzuki and Tata Motors have also asked the railway ministry to design special containers for transportation of its vehicles.
While Suzuki is looking for rail connectivity from its planned plant in Manesar, Tata Motors wants logistics solution for its Pune unit.
Most automobile manufacturers however prefer to transport their vehicles by road as the process is cheaper and there are fewer cases of damage.