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Railways to rent out hill trains to private players

DELHI: The Indian Railways will soon start leasing out its standalone passenger corridors and branch lines to private companies for operations and maintenance, marking the beginning of corporate participation in the running of the world’s fourth largest railroad network.

Narrow and metre-gauge tracks linking the colonial era hill stations are set to be the first of the 108,000-kilometer rail network to be run privately, a senior railway official told The Economic Times.

Largely unprofitable routes linking Kalka and Shimla, Siliguri and Darjeeling, the Nilgiri mountains with the plains, Neral and Matheran, and the Kangra Valley railways would be among the first the government will likely choose to bid out to private operators, which may include overseas companies as the existing policy on investment in railways allows 100% foreign ownership.

“We keep getting queries from private players who want to run their own operations. We want to be completely out of operations from these standalone corridors and branch lines and would only assist private players in running operations,” a senior railwayofficial said.

“All these railways are on the international tourism map and Darjeeling Himalayan railways is a Unesco world heritage site. There’s a huge opportunity for private sector, and for railways also it will be profitable.”

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