Railways planning to set up commercial activities at stations to generate revenue
If the Indian railway has its way, the old, dilapidated station buildings will soon give way to swanky high-rises.
For the railways, the exercise is a means of revenue generation but lakhs of passengers will be the ultimate beneficiaries as the plan will enable them to find hotels, restaurants, shopping arcades and movie theatres at a go. Tapping its biggest resource to strengthen its finances, the Indian railway is planning to raise multi-storey buildings on unused land and lease them out to private firms. In 2015-16, the railways had posted a deficit of over Rs 32,000 crore and the initiative aims at increasing revenue generation by commercially exploiting its resources.
The Railway Land Development Authority (RLDA) has been entrusted with the task to carry out studies on commercially viable railway properties and prepare the commercial development plan accordingly.
To begin with, railway stations in Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur, Lucknow, Kanpur, Gwalior, Ajmer and other cities are being surveyed. Officials said the buildings will be raised vertically but the actual height will be subject to clearance from local civic bodies.
In Delhi, railways has planned the overhaul of Anand Vihar terminal and Sarai Rohilla station while Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminal (CST), Dadar, Lokmanya Tilak Terminal (LTT), Bandra Andheri, Borivali stations in Mumbai will be developed commercially.
Senior officials said while this will improve the financial health of railways, it will also give a facelift to the railway stations. Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has already given nod for development of 400 stations in India on PPP model. Officials said as suggested by RLDA, these stations will be developed accordingly. The approximate cost of developing each station on PPP model will be around Rs 100 crore.
In another move, the railways have also paved the way for installing huge digital signboards across 2,000 busy stations in the country to display commercial advertisements.
Official claimed that railway properties located at prime locations will attract private firms to start commercial activities. Also, stations like New Delhi, Mumbai CST, Lucknow and Kanpur witness a daily footfall of nearly 5 lakh passengers.
“Indian Railways has approximately 43,000 hectares of vacant land. A major chunk of it is the land which is not required for operational purposes in near future. Different zonal railways will identify such land and report the same to Railway Board. Such land will thereafter be entrusted to RLDA in phases for commercial development,” a senior Indian railway official told Mail Today.
As part of Anand Vihar redevelopment plan, railways will remodel the station building on the lines of airport. The station building will be separate arrival and departure decks while there will be ample space for a hotel, restaurants, coffee shops, multiplex, retail outlets and offices. Business of all sorts will be accommodated at the station building. Similarly, the RLDA is conducting a study at Sarai Rohilla railway station which caters to trains bound to states like Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and Rajasthan.
“The redevelopment plan of Anand Vihar is in advanced stage; bids for it will be invited soon. The upcoming railway station at Bijwasan will have ample scope for commercial development,” said Arun Arora, Divisional Rail Manager (DRM), Delhi. “Restaurants, shopping areas and food plazas would be developed at major stations to help the railways generate more revenue from its premises,” he said.
For the railways, commercial exploitation of properties is the most viable alternative as increasing passenger fares and freight charges remain a challenge. After implementation of the 7th pay commission, railways’ expense on salary and pension has gone up by Rs 22,000 crore and thus adding to the deficit. In January, Finance Ministry had also refused to grant monetary assistance to the railways.
Source :India Today