The Indian Ministry of Railways has invited request for qualifications (RFQ) for private entities for passenger rail service operations for 151 new trains.

These trains will operate more than 109 origin-destination (OD) pairs of routes.

It has grouped the 109 OD pairs into 12 clusters across the rail network. Each of the trains will feature a minimum of 16 coaches.

This project is expected to result in a private sector investment of Rs300bn ($3.98bn). This marks the first entry of private players to operate passenger trains over the Indian Railways network.

In a statement, the ministry said: “The private entity shall be responsible for financing, procuring, operation and maintenance of the trains.”

The trains will be designed to operate at speeds of up to 160km/h and are expected to lead to a shorter journey time.

The running time of the trains will be the same or faster than the fastest train that operates on the route.

The ministry added: “The objective of this initiative is to introduce modern technology rolling stock with reduced maintenance, reduced transit time, boost job creation, provide enhanced safety, provide world-class travel experience to passengers, and also reduce the demand-supply deficit in the passenger transportation sector.”

The concession period of operations will be for 35 years.

Indian Railways will receive payment from the private company for fixed haulage charges, actual consumption energy charges and a share in gross revenue, which will be determined via a transparent bidding process.

In May, French train manufacturer Alstom announced that the first of the Prima T8 electric locomotives ordered by Indian Railways has started service in India.