However, GDL which has been shortlisted for running private passenger trains, will not bid for the private passenger train project of Railways. This was told to BusinessLine by Prem Kishan Dass Gupta, Chairman and Managing Director, GDL, who started as a newsprint importer.
GDL, with three container handling depots along the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor, will get “maximum advantage” as more sections of the dedicated freight corridor get operationalised, said Dass Gupta. His company has already run multiple double stack trains on the and some have achieved high speeds of 95 kmph.
Dass Gupta said they will connect Pipavav and Mundra ports with the industrial belt of Gurugram-Manesar using double stack container trains in much shorter time than roads given the higher speeds. Having a terminal at Garhi Harsaru (near Gurugram) that can handle double stack container trains puts GDL in a more advantageous position as compared to its competitors, believes Gupta. Concor, for instance, can get double stack trains till its Khatuwas (in Rajasthan), but further North (to Delhi), it has to move single stack trains. Concor’s Tughlakabad depot in Delhi cannot handle double stack trains.
GDL expects to ride high with freight corridor operations for many reasons — capacity to carry heavier cargo faster than on road, which will lower the per unit cost. Moreover, Dass Gupta expects to reap the benefits of fluctuating diesel prices – which impact the road sector freight rate much more than the trains. “We do not change rate as fast as road sector,” said Dass Gupta.
On GDL’s interest to bid for Concor, Dass Gupta said, “GDL had entered into a partnership with a fund and submitted expression of interest for Concor’s disinvestment plans (Government had announced similar plans a few years back as well). We will largely be an operational company, with some investment to show our interest. But, the investment will largely be from the fund…Once the next round starts, we will go back to the fund,” said Dass Gupta.
The Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced this budget that the strategic divestment of Concor (a listed company) will be completed this year.
Meanwhile, GDL, which has a set of inland container depots along the network, has achieved the highest volumes ever in December. January and February are also on track in volume terms, and the company expects to achieve either the same or better level of revenue as last year.
The proposed merger of Gateway Rail, in which GDL holds over 99 per cent stake, with itself, will allow the merged company to provide volume discounts to its customers. “The SEBI approval for the merger is expected anytime.
The company, which was one of the earliest entrants to run private container train operator in 2006 when Indian Railways opened the sector, has been shortlisted to bid for private passenger trains. However, the CMD said they are not looking to financially bid to run a passenger train now. He found the business is risky as the private passenger train operators may end up competing with Rajdhani Express trains, though the private operators are expected to invest in high technology trains. The risk is accentuated as it is unclear when Railways will upgrade its tracks to handle high speed passenger trains.