The Indian Port Rail Corporation Ltd (IPRCL), the company set up to build rail connectivity to ports, has signalled its readiness to takeover the operation and maintenance of rail infrastructure including locomotives run by the Central government-owned major port trusts, a top official has said. “In the last board meeting, our Chairman decided we should proceed in that direction,” Anoop K Agrawal, Managing Director of IPRCL, told. The 12 major ports owned by the government hold a combined 90 per cent stake in IPRCL with Railways PSU Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd holding the balance.
The 12 major ports have a combined rail track network of some 900 kms inside their premises and run more than 80 locomotives. Taking over the rail operations at the major port trusts with their approval is one of the mandates of IPRCL, apart from adding rail infrastructure/last mile connectivity to the ports, Agrawal said. “We will take over in phases. The first port which wants to give its rail operations to us is the Mumbai Port Trust,” he said. “We are in talks with the Mumbai Port Trust to finalise a memorandum of understanding incorporating the terms and conditions of the arrangement. After we sign an MoU, we may need another year to take over the operations because we’ll have to first develop the manpower to handle all aspects,” he said.
Shipping Ministry officials said that the Mumbai Port Trust has been losing heavily on rail operations over the last three years after a ban on handling coal at the port cut the number of train services. From 5-6 trains per day three year ago, Mumbai Port Trust now runs hardly 20-25 trains per month, translating into less than one train per day. It currently earns around ?5 crore from rail operations for which it incurs an expenditure of around ?25 crore on infrastructure, maintenance and staff.
IPRCL will take over the rail operations at major port trusts only on the basis of an MoU to avoid terms that may not be agreeable to it. Besides, port trusts where the rail operations are running smoothly may not be keen on handing over their operation and maintenance to IPRCL, Agrawal said. “We will look to reduce expenditure and improve earnings by bringing in efficiency in operations and may share profits with the port trusts. It’s a win-win situation for both,” he said. Mumbai-based IPRCL posted a net profit of over ?17 crore in FY18 on a turn-over of about ?200 crore.