An ambitious Indian Railways redevelopment plan

The face of the Indian Railways is going through a phase of transformation comprising of 23 major railway stations which is said to be the world’s largest station redevelopment programme. The redeveloped stations will provide amenities and services to the passengers in line with best in class railway stations. After an effort of over 10 years, finally the first lot of stations for redevelopment through public-private-partnership (PPP) model without straining Railways finances was launched. The selected stations in the first lot have been finalised after a detailed study by The Boston Consulting Group. Boston Consulting Group (BCG) is the strategic advisor for this program and based on the commercial assessment conducted by them. In the first phase, 23 proposed stations include Chennai Central, Ranchi, Udaipur City, Indore, Yesvantpur, Bangalore Cantt., Visakhapatnam, Howrah, Kamakhya, Faridabad, Jammu Tawi, Secunderabad, Vijayawada, Kozhikode and Bhopal. The Railway Board also aims to redevelop railway stations using the surplus revenue that will be generated from commercial development of spare railway land. Railways will provide approximately 140 acres of encroachment free land at these stations to the developers on a 45-year lease.  Indian Railways has also appointed nodal officers in each zone to ensure smooth interactions with the developers. The phase is expected to be of approximately 6,000 – 9,000 Crore in size. Indian Railways team is confident that the round will create adequate market curiosity.

On launch of the first phase, Railway Minister Mr. Suresh Prabhu said that “the Railways have certain advantages out of which one is holding of land on a large scale. Railway Stations is a place where lots of people wait to board a train and thus Railway Station can be developed into an iconic property. The Ministry of Urban Development is collaborating with the Ministry of Railways to develop smart stations because smart stations are a pre-requisite for becoming a smart city.  The project of re-developing 400 A1 and A Category Stations in country is the biggest non-fare revenue generating programme which will be done on PPP model through a fair bidding system conducted by the respective Zonal Railways. In the first phase, 23 stations will be bid out and redeveloped to the fullest use where so many facilities can be enjoyed by the passengers at one place”.

Railway Board has strategized an advanced plan to provide better passenger experience through PPP model by leveraging the real estate available at the railway stations. With an overall size of 1 lakh crore, this project is one of the largest PPP program commenced in the country. The program will provide about 2,200 acres of prime land to private developers across 100 cities. A committee of eminent experts is being formulated to offer ideas to Zonal Railways on proposals submitted by bidders. Commercial potential of this vacant Railway land near stations will be leveraged to develop world class stations with no additional funding required from Railways. It is expected to generate a surplus of more than 10,000 Crore for the Indian Railways which can be invested in other transformation projects. Select high potential stations will be made as iconic stations and will be developed as per highest global standards and design norms.

The redeveloped stations will provide amenities like digital signage, escalators & elevators, self-ticketing counters, executive lounges, luggage screening machines, walkways, holding areas for passengers, grand and distinctive roofing and flooring, free & paid Wi-Fi etc. The program will benefit more than 100 cities and 16 million passengers per day across the country. Moreover, the commercial development near the stations will provide quality retail, commercial and hospitality development. Taking cue from global best practices, Indian Railways has adopted the “modified Swiss challenge” policy for bidding. Proposals from developers are being invited with their designs and business ideas to improve facilities in the redeveloped stations, including improvement to approach infrastructure and segregation of arrival and departure of passengers which shall help in reducing congestion at stations and their approaches. Station redevelopment projects are intrinsically complex in nature and require detailed techno-economic feasibility studies to work out the cost. Countries like Belgium, China, France, Germany, Malaysia and South Korea have shown interest in participating in the redevelopment of railway stations in India.

After the first phase, 100+ stations are expected to be launched in Phase 2 and the remaining A1 and A stations will be launched in Phase 3 of this program. Water Recycling Plants, Rain Water Harvesting Plants, Sewage Treatment Plants and Effluent Treatment Plants are being set up on railway land to improve water use efficiency. Apart from this the Government has provided 1,155 Crores in current fiscal towards fitment of bio-toilets in coaches as part of Swachh Bharat. Currently, there are about 800 trains, which are having either some coaches or all the coaches fitted with bio-toilets. The earlier targeted to fit bio-toilets in the entire fleet of coaches was by the year 2021-22 which has now been advanced to the year 2019. The Government has also provided 500 Crores for installation of CCTV surveillance cameras at 983 stations. As of now, there are about 344 railway stations, where CCTV cameras have been installed. 2019 is being marked as a crucial year for Indian Railways and the Government as most policies of redevelopment of Railways have a deadline of 2019 which is also the year General Elections will be held and development of Railways could be the key agenda to woo the voters.

Keshav Raina