Views of R.K. Singh: “Private participation will play a vital role in station redevelopment”

“Private participation will play a vital role in station redevelopment”

R.K. SinghIndian Railways (IR) is undergoing a sea change in terms of transforming stations on its network and equipping them with the best passenger amenities. Infrastructure is being developed at various major cities across the country to cater to increasing passenger volumes and ensure smooth operations. The Covid-19 pandemic had an adverse effect on IR’s operations due to reduced passenger volumes and in 2020, the Railway Board directed all zones to suspend projects that were not essential. However, the station redevelopment programme is expected give an impetus to the overall economy and real estate, with its focus on developing rail-side facilities and amenities as well as city-side amenities to commercially utilise the excess landholdings available in some stations. At a recent Indian Infrastructure conference, “Railways in India”, R.K. Singh, director (projects and planning), Indian Railway Stations Development Corporation (IRSDC), spoke about the station redevelopment programme, the key milestones achieved and future opportunities. Excerpts…

Station redevelopment programme overview

IR has embarked on an endeavour to redevelop railway stations in major cities to provide an enhanced travel experience to passengers. Agencies such as the Rail Land Development Authority (RLDA), Indian Railway Construction Limited and IRSDC have been actively engaged in this process and have already identified several stations across the country for redevelopment and privatisation.

IRSDC is planning infrastructure development at 63 stations across the country, with the majority of stations located in the Northern Railway and Central Railway zones.

IRSDC has established seven focus points in the redevelopment of stations. These are segregation of arrival and departure areas, providing elevators and escalators for passenger convenience, conservation of existing natural environment, making cleanliness a priority, ensuring deployment of efficient communication systems, establishing a multimodal transportation ecosystem, and creating a city centre.

The redevelopment of stations will be funded through a station redevelopment fee, enhancing station revenue and leveraging real estate development on station premises. The active participation of the private sector will also play a vital role in the redevelopment of stations. Hence, steps are being taken to make the programme more lucrative for private players. These include standardisation of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs’ documents, finalisation of station redevelopment guidelines, establishing a single point agency for approval of plans, providing an assured source of funding through station redevelopment fee, and ensuring a long-duration concession period ranging from 30 to 45 years.

Progress so far

IRSDC has successfully completed the redevelopment of the Gandhinagar and Habibganj stations, while work is in progress at the Bijwasan station. Currently, five railway stations are at the request for proposal stage and three stations are at the request for qualification (RfQ) stage. Further, RfQ proposals have been submitted for another 21 railway stations.

The Habibganj station was completed at a cost of Rs 3.5 billion across a total built-up area of 1.2 million square feet. The station has various facilities for passengers such as food courts, kiosks and ATMs.

The Gandhinagar station, also developed by IRSDC, has three upgraded platforms consisting of a column free platform roof spanning 105 metres.

Upcoming opportunities

Going forward, IRSDC and the RLDA plan to finalise 40 stations in 2021 and from 2022 onwards, work is expected to begin on 50 stations annually. Further, IRSDC has introduced a new concept of station facility management, wherein new initiatives are being taken to improve passenger amenities. Station facility management includes refurbishment of infrastructure and provision of facilities for passenger convenience. The facility management works will be implemented in public-private partnership mode and the concessionaire will be responsible for the complete management of facilities at the station. The concessionaire will also be responsible for obtaining applicable permits from the concerned authorities at regular intervals. Meanwhile, the authorities will be responsible for replacing existing contracts in favour of the concessionaire and approve plans submitted by the concessionaire.