Private container train operators demand tariff regulator

The Association of Container Train Operators, or ACTO, lobby group said Tuesday the government should set up a rail tariff regulatory authority for rational, transparent freight rates.

Indian Railways had opened up the rail transportation of containers in 2006 to private operators that had already invested more than Rs4,000 crore in wagons, containers and terminals in addition to Rs650 crore for securing a licence from the government.

However, the group said rail haulage charges have been increased eight times during the last seven years since deregulation, resulting in a cumulative increase of 73%-128% in different weight slabs, while tariffs for transport of bulk cargo by rail, in which investment in wagons is by the Railways themselves, has increased by a mere 32% over the same period.

The railway ministry prescribes haulage charges for transportation of containers by rail from time to time. These operators, including state-run Container Corp. of India Ltd, pay haulage charges to the ministry for using the railways’ track, locomotives, signalling infrastructure and staff for running their container trains to ports from inland locations and back.

Policies for Private Investment in Railways

A number of policies were announced during Eleventh Five Year Plan to encourage private investment in terminals and wagons. These include: Private Freight Terminal policy (PFT), Special Freight Train Operations (SFTO) policy, Automobile Freight Train Operators (AFTO) policy, Auto-hub-ancillary policy, Operation of Container Trains, R3i (Railways’ Infrastructure for Industry Initiative) and R2CI (Rail connectivity to coal and iron ore mines) policies to facilitate participation of private sector in the development of Railway Infrastructure.

While these policies will continue to be pursued during the Twelfth Five Year Plan, a revised policy for encouraging private participation in rail connectivity projects has been approved recently by the Union Cabinet.

Approval of 53 rakes have been given under Liberalized Wagon Investment Scheme, 3 rakes approval have been given for Special Freight Train Operators Scheme, notification for 8 Private Freight Terminal have been issued, 17 private container train operators have now been given permission for operation of container trains.

This information was given by the Minister of State for Railways Shri Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury in written reply to a question in Lok Sabha today.