Modi Govt‘s last Budget before the next general elections allocated a whopping Rs 1.48 trillion to the railways the highest ever for the sector for capacity expansion along with a better, safer rail experience for passengers.
Significantly, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had announced that 600 railway stations across the country had been picked for modernisation.
The plan reportedly was to adopt a public private partnership model, under which the Indian Railways would carry out 25-50 per cent of the construction work, and then give the station on a 99 year lease to the highest bidder for completion, development and subsequent operation.
In the first phase, the Indian Railway Station Development Corporation (IRSDC) and zonal units were supposed to take up about 130 stations.
But in the face of the low-key private investor interest, the railways today came out with a list of 68 stations earmarked for a facelift through its own resources.
The list reportedly includes some of the busiest stations in the country like the Old Delhi railway station, Howrah, Patna, Allahabad, Vijayawada, Pune, Bengaluru, Ambala and Chennai Egmore. “We can’t wait for private investors anymore.
We’ll redevelop these stations on our own and could monetise them later through commercial exploitation,” a top rail ministry official told. As per rough estimates, the railways may need to shell out around Rs 3,000 – 4,000 crore on this project.
All the shortlisted railway stations will reportedly get state-of-the-art amenities, including elevators, swanky waiting room, a modern passenger announcement system, new platforms, shopping complex and airport-like entry and exit.
But while the overhaul aims to bring about a visible change in the station facades and amenities, Railway Board Chairman Ashwini Lohani reportedly suggested that there shouldn’t be any unnecessary construction all over.
The redevelopment will be closely monitored by the general managers of the respective zones and the divisional railway manager (DRMs), who are expected to submit a master plan along with a budget for the same to the Railway Board by the end of this month.
The latter is expected to also engage officials to closely monitor the redevelopment plan along with the DRMs. According to the report, the letter to zonal general managers informing them about the number of stations and a one-year deadline for completion was sent out on Thursday. The government is probably hoping that the redevelopment work gets wrapped up before the country goes for the Lok Sabha polls.
Let’s not forget that the National Building Construction Corporation (NBCC) is also involved with the government’s station redevelopment plan, with 10 stations on its plate. The public sector company’s revamped railway station at Habibganj in Bhopal, in fact, is scheduled for completion by the end of this year.
So, if things go to plan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his team will be able to showcase as many as 80 upgraded railway stations among their achievements during the upcoming elections.>