The Delhi-Lucknow Tejas Express is set to be the first train to be operated by private players, sources said on Monday, indicating the railways is going ahead with its 100-day agenda of handing over operations of two of its trains to the private sector, despite protests from unions.
The Railway Board is deliberating on a second such route, which also would be within the 500-km distance range.
However, a railway board official said that the Delhi-Lucknow route is one of the trains being considered for private operators.
"A decision will be taken in about a month's time. The IRCTC is still working out the modalities," the official said.
The Delhi-Lucknow Tejas Express was announced in 2016 but was introduced in the new time table released recently.
The train, one of the most-awaited trains on the route, is currently parked at the Annandnagar railway station in Uttar Pradesh and will be handed over to private players after an open bidding process for operationalisation.
The custody of the trains will be transferred to the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), which will pay for it, including their lease charges, to the financing arm, IRFC.
"These two trains will be given on an experimental basis and we hope that within the next 100 days, we would be able to run at least one of them. The idea was to identify routes which have low congestion and connect important tourist spots. The second train too will be identified soon," a senior official said.
The Delhi-Lucknow route is currently has 53 trains but no Rajdhani. The Swarn Shatabdi has the highest demand on this route and takes around 6.30 hours.
The IRCTC, which will be given the two trains to run initially, has been asked to finalise a proposal by July 10 and submit it to the Railway Board after a meeting of the Member, Traffic, with officials of the railways' tourism and the catering arm on July 4.
The proposal of the Railway Board in its 100-day plan was to offer two trains to operators who would be willing to be part of the bidding process for rights to run private passenger day/overnight train sets connecting important cities.
The railways also said that it would float a Request for Proposal (RFP) and a Request for Quote (RFQ) in the next 100 days. The proposal, however, has come under severe criticism from the railway unions, who have threatened large scale protests over the issue.