Indian Railways News

Railways’ Wi-Fi Video Entertainment Plan for Passengers gathers Steam

You could soon have video entertainment on trains to see you through long journeys. Video content providers such as Viacom18, Zee, Hungama and Shemaroo are keen to bid for the rights to provide video content on 3,000 trains through wireless intranet.

The Indian Railways, under its non-fare revenue cell, has drawn up the plan to provide video content, including movies in all major Indian languages on all its passenger trains.

Under the plan, passengers will be able to watch the content on their phones by logging on to the railways’ local wi-fi network onboard.

According to the railways, the companies have evinced interest during the pre-bid conferences and will participate in bidding next month as well.

The number of trains will be divided into two equal packages and the bidding will happen in a phase-wise manner. The deal is likely to fetch the railways nearly Rs 500 crore annually in non-fare revenue.

“Almost 24 such companies have come forward. We will be charging an annual license fee from the successful bidder,” a top railway official said.

The contract will be awarded for a period of five years. The official said since uninterrupted internet facility cannot be provided on trains due to technological challenges and high cost, the plan to disseminate content through local wi-fi in all coaches will work well.

“Earlier, we were expecting over Rs 1,000 crore annually from this segment. But after consultation with stakeholders, it was felt that the market was still not ripe. However, we will easily be able to get Rs 500 crore without even spending a penny as the successful bidder will provide the technology and the equipment,” the official added.

A distribution box will be installed in the coaches, which will be updated regularly. Passengers will be able to consume content on their own devices.

The content-on-demand project falls under the railways’ plan to boost non-fare revenue by selling advertising spaces inside and outside trains and railway stations, and branding rights for stations and trains, besides leasing out spaces for ATMs and shops.

The railways sees Rs 18,000-crore revenue potential for these initiatives annually. In the recently released volume two of the Economic Survey 2016-17, it has been suggested that the railways should focus on such initiatives to boost revenue.

Railway minister Suresh Prabhu has set the target to earn 10% of total rail revenue from such sources so that reliance on freight and passenger fares can be reduced.

Currently, the railways earn only 3% of its total revenue from non-fare sources as against the 15-20% average for railways in developed counties.

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