In a bid to promote and attract tourism business, the Indian Railways has announced to launch of Bharat Gaurav trains that will be operated by private players. These trains will run on theme-based circuits. Through this policy, which offers the “Right of Use” of Indian Railways’ rakes and infrastructure to operators, the national transporter has liberalized and simplified a part of operations that was otherwise carried out mostly by IRCTC. While these trains can be operated by any entity, including state governments, it is implied that the policy is targeted at tour operators, an IE report said. Here is everything you should know about Bharat Gaurav Trains:
What is the policy of Bharat Gaurav trains?
Under this policy, trains can be leased by any operator or service provider, or virtually anyone, from Indian Railways to run on a theme-based circuit as a special tourism package. The arrangement’s tenure is a minimum of two years and a maximum of the codal life of the train coach. The national transporter has given the freedom to the operator to decide the route, services provided, halts, and also tariff. Anyone can approach Indian Railways to lease the 3033 conventional ICF-design coaches earmarked for this segment. Also, if the operator finds it feasible, then it can buy rakes from the production units of Indian Railways and run them. Each of these trains will have between 14 and 20 coaches. These Bharat Gaurav trains cannot be used as ordinary transport trains between an origin and destination.
How will Indian Railways process such applications?
In each zonal railway, a special unit will be created to process such applications and also handhold applicants, as well as see end-to-end procedural requirements for the operators. These special units will help operators to create itineraries, public outreach, carry out necessary approvals, etc.
What can the operators do within the contract?
The operator, if it wants, can carry out its own furnishings of the train interiors within safety norms. The operator can decide what kind of interiors or berth composition it wants. However, the operator cannot tinker with or dismantle key parts of the coach that has a bearing on safety and operation. It can name the train, the circuit as well as sell advertisement space. The operator can also carry out branding on the trains’ exterior and interior. Besides, it can also tie-up with entities and agencies for business development, logistics, etc. The food and entertainment can also be decided by the operator to add to the experience of the passengers.
However, the operator has to be ensured that things that are not permitted by Indian Railway laws are not carried out onboard these trains. Currently, the policy is silent on whether non-veg food would be allowed, but according to officials, there should not be any restriction as it is permitted on Indian Railways trains. The policy’s spirit is to give operators complete freedom to run the business as well as develop a business model in which the national transporter will only physically run the trains, maintain the trains and charge a fee.
What kind of coaches have been earmarked for Bharat Gaurav trains?
Conventional air-conditioned I, II, III classes have been earmarked along with non-AC Sleeper class coaches, AC chair cars as well as pantry cars under the policy. Freedom will be given to the operator to create a train with any mix depending on the clientele type it will target. The coaches earmarked for these trains are in two age brackets– over 15 years and up to 20 years old and over 20 years and up to 25 years old. Charges will vary for the coaches based on their age. Usually, train coaches are retired after a period of 35 years. If the period of the contract ends when the codal life of coaches or the rake is remaining, then upon mutual consent, the contract can be extended. If there is a future demand, LHB coaches or even Vande Bharat or Vista Dome coaches can be included, however, the pricing will be different.
What will the national transporter do?
Indian Railways will provide staff to drive the Bharat Gaurav trains, guards as well as maintenance staff on board for the coaches. Other staff, such as catering and housekeeping, etc, will be deployed by the operator. Also, it will ensure that its entire infrastructure is in place to safely and efficiently host the train in its network. Indian Railways has also said that it will give these trains priority in its paths, like the Rajdhanis and other premium trains, so that these Bharat Gaurav trains are not held up or sidelined to make way for regular trains.
How much will it cost the operator?
According to the report, the money works out to be substantial as it is a sum of registration fee, haulage charges, security deposit for the rake, “Right of Use” charges, and stabling charges payable by the operator to Indian Railways. All these charges are linked to use of different components of railway resources, such as fuel, manpower, maintenance, depreciation, lease, etc. Indian Railways, to start with, will take Rs 1 lakh as one-time online registration fee from the applicant. The concerned zone of Indian Railways will revert after processing the application within a period of 10 days. Thereafter, after allotment of the rake, there is a security deposit of Rs 1 crore per rake, irrespective of the rake size, for the duration of the Right of Use period.
How the ‘Right of Use’ will be charged?
The calculation of annual ‘Right of Use’ charges are done on the basis of the type of coach taken and the duration. Under the scheme of Bharat Gaurav trains, the Right of Use charges of the first year have to be paid upfront and the charges of the second year have to be paid 15 days before the preceding year’s completion. Payment delay would result in a penalty equivalent to the prevailing interest rate of the bank plus 3% as administrative fee. The Right of Use may be terminated if it is not paid within 30 days. For one air-conditioned coach, the yearly Right of Use charge varies from Rs 3.5-1.4 lakh depending on class and age. The Right of Use charge of a pantry car is between Rs 2 lakh and Rs 65,000 depending on the age and type. The charge for a non-AC sleeper coach is between Rs 1.8 lakh and Rs 96,000. For five years, these charges have been fixed after which these charges may be revised. In case the train coaches are owned by the operator or are purchased directly by Indian Railways, the Right of Use charges will not apply.