Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is on a two day visit to his home state, laid the foundation stone for the redevelopment of Gandhinagar Railway station yesterday (9 January). This project is a part of the prime minister’s plan to redevelop more than 400 railway stations in the country by taking a holistic approach.
Gandhinagar railway station development plan envisages to develop not only the station but also build a 300 room five star hotel in the airspace above the railway track. The station complex will also include international convention and exhibition centres which have hosted Vibrant Gujarat Global Investor Summit. Segregating the arrival and departure of passengers is an important aspect of the centre’s stations redevelopment plan and this station will also see it getting implemented. The project will be developed at an estimated cost of Rs 250 crore.
Gandhinagar station is not alone. Redevelopment of Habibganj, Surat, Anand Vihar, Bijwasan, Chandigarh, Shivajinagar are in different stages of planning and execution. Stations such as Gwalior, Baiyappanahalli, Gandhinagar (Jaipur station), Amritsar and Nagpur have also been entrusted to Indian Railway station Development Corporation (IRSDC). Railways is also looking to auction 20 major stations for redevelopment this month. It will invite bids from developers and an expert committee will pick the developer who has submitted the best proposal.
The selected developer can undertake the development of the station and will have to complete the process in three years after which he can operate for 12 years under the operations and maintenance (O&M) contract. Developer will have to transfer the station to the railways. They will get eight years to develop the real estate around the station and then will be allowed to lease it for 45 years. (The period is not fixed and will vary with the developer and station. For instance, commercial developer of Surat station has got the lease for 90 years).
The Modi government wants to revamp over 400 railway stations in the country. In July 2015, the Union Cabinet had given its approval for redevelopment of the railway stations on 'as is where is' basis which will make it possible to accelerate the process. These stations are mostly in metros, cities, important pilgrimage sites and major tourist spots. These have been classified into two categories: A1 and A. Top 86 stations fall under the former while the rest have been included in the later.
Since, ‘one size fits all’ solution of redevelopment cannot be applied to all the 400 stations, the government thought it appropriate to deal with their development individually. For this purpose, the government had awarded the contract last year to Boston Consulting Group (BCG) for Rs 8 crore to recommend to it the best way to redevelop stations. BCG evaluated the commercial potential of stations and gave its assessment to the government.
The plans for the redevelopment of stations include building an iconic structure with modern state-of-the-art facilities. The complexes will have a parking lot aimed at easing the congestion and will provide non-conflicting entry/exit to the station premises. Segregation of arrival/departure of passengers is also a part of the revamp plan. The government also wants developers to build adequate concourse without overcrowding which would mean building it above the platforms and rail lines. Of course, the concourse will have enough space for essential facilities such as catering, small retail, wash rooms, cloak rooms, drinking water, ATM, pharmacy, internet, etc.
But perhaps the most important aspect is the plan to integrate the railways stations with other modes of transport systems e.g. Bus, Metro, etc. While designing the station, future expansion of platforms/lines etc. will also have to be taken into account. The government is looking at the next forty years and wants these revamped complexes to be the nerve centres of the future smart cities.
The projects of redevelopment of various stations across the country are in different stages of planning and execution. The pace is slow. It is highly unlikely that the government will be able to revamp all the stations by its term-end. However, this is not something that can be achieved in a short span. The redevelopment of all these stations will mean pumping thousands of crores and the centre will have to work in partnership with the state governments which may or may not share Railway ministry’s enthusiasm for these projects. So, a lot depends on how best the governments can work together and how fast the developers can deliver these projects on time.
Since, all stations will have to be planned and developed individually, this inevitably means more time will be needed than it would’ve been otherwise required. Once the developers are chosen and all the permissions are in place, it shouldn’t take long to complete the process of revamp.