Getting a Facelift: Railways focus on station redesign and redevelopment

Railways focus on station redesign and redevelopment

Station redevelopment is a flagship programme of Indian Railways (IR). It is a key element that will help in the holistic transformation of the railways, and enable the upgradation and redevelopment of existing infrastructure. The programme is focused on im­proving passenger amenities by leveraging the real estate available with the railways to fu­nd the development. Previously, the Indian Rail­­way Stations Development Corporation (IRSDC) and the Rail Land Development Autho­rity (RLDA) were the key bodies responsible for the execution of the programme. However, with the dissolution of IRSDC and building on the learnings from the execution of station redevelopment projects, IR has fine-tuned its app­ro­ach to utilise all the resources available to it.

The key focus of the programme is to offer state-of-the-art amenities and an enhanced ex­perience to passengers. The proposed ame­ni­ties include an elevated concourse, multilevel car parking, food courts, hotels and offices.

Key features

The station redevelopment programme aims to transform existing stations into city centres. Stations are being developed as business centres, where citizens can assemble to enjoy the ambience and host business conferences. The idea is to integrate railway stations fully with the­ir respective cities. The redeveloped stations will have roof plazas, which will serve as large resting and waiting areas, with a minimum wid­th of 36 metres. These will contain c­a­fe­te­rias, ex­e­cutive lounges, air-conditioned waiting halls, retail amenities, food courts, etc. The re­de­ve­lop­ment proposal for the Ranchi railway sta­tion suggests a 72-metre wide roof plaza, acc­e­ssi­ble from either side of the road, thereby ena­b­ling integration of the station with the city.

Another key feature of the station redevelopment programme is integration of the railways with other modes of transport such as buses and the metro,  thereby enabling seamless connectivity within cities. The new and up­graded stations will consider the needs of all sections of passengers, such as pedestrians, public transport users and car owners.

In order to enable a congestion-free environment, redeveloped stations will include separate areas for departures and arrivals. Other key proposed amenities in­clu­de drinking water, ATMs, retail shops, catering services and washrooms. All redesig­ned stations will be accessible to disabled people. The idea is to make the railway station an experience in itself for the passenger, in terms of transit, but also arrival, de­par­ture and waiting time.

RLDA’s role in station redevelopment

The RLDA is a statutory authority under the Ministry of Railways (MoR), set up for development of vacant railway land for commercial use with the objective of generating revenue through non-tariff measures. The key mandates of the RLDA, include commercial development of railways surplus land, railway station redevelopme­nt, colony re­dev­elopment and development of multifunctional complexes (MFCs).

IR has approximately 43,000 hectares of vacant land across India. The land offered to developers has clear titles and is encroachment-free. With station redevelopment projects having been given “infrastructure” status, no en­vironmental clearances are requir­ed for them. The environment management plans ha­ve been approved by the MoR, thereby making station redevelopment an ad­vanta­geous proposition.

The RLDA has over 125 commercial (green­field) sites across India for leasing, and eligible developers are selected through an open and transparent bidding process. As per the latest updates, lease contracts for 34 such sites have been awarded. Moreover, 84 railway colonies have been entrusted to the RLDA, of which nine have been awarded for re­development. MFCs are small amenity comp­le­xes meant to be of use to passengers as well as the general public of a city. Around 58 MFCs have been awarded, and 16 have been commissioned so far.

In another development, preparation of detailed project reports (DPRs) is under way for 86 railway stations. Some of these will be de­ve­loped by the RLDA, and others by IR. Key stations such as in New Delhi, Mumbai’s Chha­trapati Shi­vaji Maharaj Terminus, Ahmeda­bad, Surat, Lu­ck­now (Charbagh and Gomtinagar), Delhi Can­tonment, and Safdarjung are being developed by the RLDA. The RLDA will also be handholding IR in the formulation of documents and specifications, and during the construction phase.

In 2021-22, the RLDA awarded lease contracts worth Rs 6.1 billion. A target of awarding lease contracts worth Rs 50 billion has been set for 2022-23. Of this, the RLDA has already awarded contracts to the tune of Rs 18 billion (April-August period). The RLDA also aims to generate an income of Rs 10 billion from land resources.

Key developments

In the supplementary budget for 2021-22, the MoR sanctioned funds to the tune of Rs 120 billion for umbrella work to be executed under the station redevelopment programme. On si­mi­lar lines, in the 2022-23 supplementary budget, Rs 55 billion in funding has been sa­nc­tioned for umbrella work. Redevelop­ment of around 46 stations has been undertaken as part of these umbrella works. In another development, the master plan for 55 stations has been approved, and redevelopment work is in progress at three stations (under other mo­des of financing). Tenders have been invited for 46 stations. Meanwhile, EPC contracts for 27 stations have been awarded, and work is currently in progress.

One of the most important station redevelopment projects is that of the New Delhi railway station. It is a flagship project for the RLDA and IR. The station will be redeveloped to en­sure multi-modal transport integration and de­ve­lopment. Pedestrian movement facilities, cycle tra­cks, green tracks and non-motorised vehicles have been integrated into the proposed development plan. Phase I of the project will span 93 hectares and Phase II will span 37 he­ctares. According to the master plan prepa­red for the entire area, nearly 2.5 million squa­re metres of built-up area will be constructed in and around the New Delhi railway station. All land under the colonies and offices has been in­clu­ded in the redevelopment project. In line with the mandates of the National Transit Ori­en­­ted De­velopment Policy, 20.8 per cent of the land will fall under green space. All the appro­vals for the project are in place.

Pain points

The station redevelopment programme faced multiple challenges during the execution of the two successfully completed redeveloped stations (Rani Kamlapati Railway Station and Gan­dhinagar Railway Station). Key amongst these were carrying out construction work in an operational (brownfield) railway station, and lack of private sector participation. The res­po­n­se from private players has not been very en­couraging so far. During the request for qualification bidding for Rani Kamlapati Rail­way Sta­tion, the private sector’s enthusiasm was massive. How­ever, during the request for proposal stage, only one bid came in. The programme, al­on­gside carrying out brownfield de­velopment, also gives high weightage to the real estate in­dustry for raising capital for commercial development, making it even more risky and complex. In order to reduce the risks, the government has decided to fund the manda­tory development using its own budget. Once the station is redeveloped and upgraded, it is expected that the value of the land parcels will automatically rise.

The road ahead

Under Phase II of the programme, IR intends to take up 137 stations, which have already been identified. Consultants have been appointed for 93 stations and work on DPRs and master plans for them is under progress. Of these, 16 stations have been identified for development under the public-private partnership model. Ot­h­er than this, 37 stations have been identified for facelifting and external improvement of the circulating area, as they do not qualify for ma­jor upgradation. Further, the Chandigarh and Gu­­ru­­gram stations have been identified for fast-track, modular construction.

The programme aims to develop modern infrastructure at stations, as well as generate steady revenue streams for the railways through the monetisation of land in and around the stations. Going forward, there is a need for robust planning and solutions to effectively execute the station redevelopment programme.

Based on the remarks of Ved Parkash Dudeja, Vice Chairman, RLDA, and

V.B. Sood, Executive Director, RLDA, at recent India Infrastructure conferences