New Delhi: Senior officers and experts are holding discussions on whether to let private players run passenger trains and fix train fares, a senior Railway Board member said at an event organised by Centre for Transportation Research and Management on Friday. Railway Board member (Traffic) Girish Pillai said, “There have been many changes in train operations across the world and I think it’s time that India should discuss the options of allowing private operators to operate passenger trains.”

“Whether they can be permitted to fix fares, construct terminals, senior officials of railways and experts in the field are discussing this,” added Pillai. He reinstated the necessity to separate freight sector from passenger services. The senior official maintained that a majority of the train services in India is in a loss, and only a few running trains are making a profit.

Pillai pointed out the need for changes in freight as well as passenger fares. Stating the need for more flexibility in the fares, Pillai added that only 15 per cent of the non-suburban passengers travel in reserved classes. Out of the 15 per cent, around five per cent travel in higher classes while 10 to 11 per cent travel in sleeper classes. Most of the passengers allegedly travel in unreserved category.

Currently, there are around 50 private freight terminals in the country. The railways want more of the private players to enter the freight sector. Pillai said that in the USA, the rail operator has only 25 per cent of the wagon and container services and the other 75 per cent is with private businesses. In Russia, he said, the government has no stake in these services.

(With PTI inputs)