Sanjeev kumar Lohia
Sanjeev Kumar Lohia, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Indian Railway Station Development Corporation (IRSDC), talked to Iram Siddique on the planned redevelopment of 110 railway stations across India.
What does the redevelopment of a railway station entail and how does it help commuters?
Redevelopment of stations does not mean improving its façade and lighting, rather it entails complete transformation with well-planned entry and exit points, improved road accessibility and segregated passenger movement — similar to airports. The stations will be transformed into seamlessly connected hubs with adequate waiting rooms for all classes of passengers and no one will have to sleep on platforms. The new waiting rooms will be built at a concourse above the platform which will have retail outlets, and passengers will have to come on the platform only 5-10 minutes prior to their journey. The stations will become much safer, unlike the present scenario where stations have multiple exit and entry points. They will be completely equipped with CCTV cameras.
How many stations are being redeveloped?
In all, there are about 110 stations across India on which a detailed project report is being prepared. Of these, 60 stations are being taken up by IRSDC while another 50 stations are being done by Railway Land Redevelopment Authority (RLDA).
The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) had studied about 398 stations which fall under the A and A1 category -- based on passenger footfall, land availability and commercial potential, and prioritised a few stations; we are working on those priorities.
We have at present called for a Request for Quotation (RFQ) for Amritsar, Nagpur, Gwalior and Sabarmati. While the proposal for Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) has been sent for approval to the Mantralaya, Surat and Udhna are also in quite advanced stages and we are hoping to call for their RFQ very soon. Work at Habibganj has been completed 80 per cent and it will be ready by April. Similarly, in Gandhinagar, the station redevelopment work will end in the next few months.
Given that there is zero investment from railways, what is the funding model?
It has been decided that the first 50 stations will be bid out on Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model with funding through land monetisation along with user charges. The user charges will be a nominal fixed amount. It will give the developers a reasonable degree of revenue surety. The user charge will be a part of the ticket price and would be applicable only if one is boarding/deboarding at the redeveloped station.
With the current economic slowdown, do you see any hurdles in the redevelopment plan taking off?
We have to be always conscious of ground realities, market conditions and state of developers. Instead of just relying on infrastructure developers, we have also opened it to various investment funds who can also participate. The pre-bid meeting had a tremendous response — it saw participation from nine funds, 17 developers and at least 40 consultants. The lease period of land where we are doing residential development has also been increased to 99 years as against only 15 years.
Earlier, the lease for commercial development was given for only 45 years; now it is being given for 60 years. To further ease out the process, there is a single-window clearance. We will be approving the plans in consultation with the urban local bodies and statutory bodies so that the development in railway properties is in harmony with the surrounding development.