Experts believe that the Railways is opportunely placed to take this privatisation drive ahead.
The two rounds of pre-application meetings with prospective bidders in July-August will likely see the participation of companies like Bharat Forge, Siemens, Hitachi, Mitsui, KEC International and Medha, among others, according to sources.
These firms had attended a pre-RFQ meeting in December 2019 and are among a clutch of other companies which have expressed interest in the Railways’ Rs 30,000-crore drive to modernise the national transporter with 150 world-class modern trains. These private trains, manufactured under the ‘Make in India’ initiative, will be capable of attaining speed of 160 kmph.
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As part of the exercise to ensure an orderly and streamlined bidding process, the Railways will adhere to a scheduled time-table with July 16 fixed as the last date for receiving queries from companies for the first pre-application conference on July 21. The Railways will respond to the first set of queries latest by July 31 and open up questions for the second pre-application conference, which will close on August 7. Following the second conference on August 12, the Railways will send in responses to the queries raised by companies and invite applications from interested parties on September 8. The shortlisted applicants will be announced within 60 days of the due date of the application.
This round is part of the first of the two-stage competitive bidding process for selecting private entities for undertaking the project. The RFQ process will be for pre-qualification and shortlisting of bidders based on their financial capacity who will be in a position to offer share in the gross revenue at the bidding stage for undertaking the project.
“We are just starting and this is the first time Railways has embarked on such a process. We are optimistic but we will wait to see the response at the pre-qualification meetings which will give an idea of the seriousness,” a railway official told FE.
Experts believe that the Railways is opportunely placed to take this privatisation drive ahead. Rajaji Meshram, partner – Infrastructure, Ernst & Young, feels that on the capacity front, introduction of dedicated freight corridors is likely to free up significant track capacity in the Delhi-Kolkata and Delhi-Mumbai routes, making them attractive for private train operations. “The ministry of railways does not want to waste the current crisis and we believe that this is a landmark step in the right direction,” Meshram told FE.
“Railways will be required to rationalise routes and do a zero base time tabling to use system capacity optimally. Indian railways is also upgrading the signalling system which will complement the modern rolling stock expected to be brought in by the private operators and will significantly free up network capacity,” he added.