Private parties will soon be able to lease and buy railway coaches to run theme-based cultural, religious and other tourist circuit trains, according to a policy being formulated by the Indian Railways.
In a release on Saturday, the railways said that an executive director-level committee has been constituted by the Ministry of Railways to formulate the policy and terms and conditions of the project.
"To tap the potential of tourism sector and to leverage the core strengths of the professionals of tourism sector in tourism activities like marketing, hospitality, integration of services, reach with customer base, expertise in development/identification of tourist circuits etc., Indian Railways is planning to spread rail-based tourism among masses through leasing of coaching stock to interested parties to run them as theme-based cultural, religious and other tourist circuit trains," the release said.
It said coaches may be leased "as per the desired configuration of interested parties. Bare shells may also be taken on lease. Outright purchase of coaches can also be done."
According to sources, the plan is that the interested parties have to buy or lease a train with a minimum of 16 coaches.
This comes at a time when the railways' efforts to draw in private players to run its "private trains" is receiving very little interest from India Inc.
According to the release, the proposed model will allow private parties to conduct minor refurbishment of coaches and leasing of coaches for a minimum period of 5 years and extendable till codal life of coaches.
The interested party will develop or decide on the business model (routes, itinerary, tariff).
"Indian Railways will levy haulage charges, nominal stabling charges and lease charges. (No lease charges for outright purchase)," the release said.
Priority will be given to punctuality, timely approvals for coach refurbishment and itineraries, it said.
There will be no haulage for maintenance runs, third party advertising will be allowed inside trains and branding of trains will also be permitted, it said.