New Delhi: The Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) in a meeting with the Railway Ministry on Thursday decided to hand over the operations of 150 trains and 50 railway stations to non-governmental operators in an attempt to privatise the functions of the Indian Railways.

After a detailed discussion in the matter, a letter from NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant to Chairman Railway Board VK Yadav said an empowered task force will be constituted to draw a blueprint and “drive the process” in a “time-bound manner”.

Expressing concern over the developmental plan, Kant said that while the Railways were required to take up 400 stations for upgradation, 50 of them have been decided to be renovated on priority.

“I had a detailed discussion with the Minister of Railways wherein it was decided that there is a necessity to take up the matter on priority for at least 50 stations. Considering the recent experience in privatisation of six airports a similar process for setting up an empowered group of secretaries (EGOS) to drive the process in a time-bound manner,” Kant said.

“As you are already aware that the ministry of railways has also decided to bring in private train operators for passenger train operations and is contemplating to take up 150 trains in the first phase,” he added.

The NITI Aayog CEO also said that besides the Railways department, secretary, department of economic affairs and secretary, ministry of housing and urban affairs will be part of the task force. Further, members of the Engineering Railway Board and Traffic Railway Board must also be involved in the empowered group.

“It is always been our endeavour to provide world-class facilities to our passengers. Today an empowered group of secretaries has been constituted,” said Rajesh Dutt Bajpai, Executive Director, Railway Board.

Further talking about EGOS, Bajpai said, “The idea of constituting this group is to fasten the development of these 50 stations and 150 trains.”

Meanwhile, India flagged off the Lucknow-Delhi Tejas Express on October 4, the first private train to be run by a non-railway operator. The semi-high speed corporate train will run from Lucknow to Delhi six days a week.

It must also be noted that all passengers of Delhi-Lucknow Tejas Express are allowed to use the executive lounge at New Delhi railway station. The facility of using retiring rooms at the Lucknow junction station has also been provided.

Further, passengers will be served meals by on-board service staff, whereas tea and coffee vending machines will also be available in the train.