Upgrade of 400 railway stations, e-way cleared

NEW DELHI: Decrepit and dirty railway stations may soon be a thing of the past, with the Union Cabinet on Thursday deciding to involve private players to redevelop over 400 stations in metros and major cities besides pilgrim centres and important tourist spots.

The Cabinet also cleared six-laning of the eastern peripheral expressway through Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, which, when complete, would go a long way in easing air pollution in Delhi by enabling trucks and other vehicles passing through the region to bypass the capital.

The revamped railway stations will feature business centres, shopping outlets, restaurants and Wi-Fi-enabled waiting lounges.

Reburshed stations will also have luxury hotels, multilevel parking, separate entry and exit levels as the railways looks to leverage its prime real estate in and around these stations, mostly in the heart of cities.

Announcing the decision, finance minister Arun Jaitley said, “The Cabinet has approved the redevelopment of railway stations. Four hundred railway stations are to be redeveloped using the Swiss Challenge method.” The decision, the FM said, will encourage innovative ideas from interested parties at no cost to the railways.

Under the Swiss Challenge method, open bids are invited from interested parties. Once someone submits a bid, another party can give suggestions to improve and beat that proposal. An expert committee will accept the best proposal and the original proposer will get a chance to accept it if it is an improvement on his proposal. In case the original proposer is not able to match the competing counterproposal, the project is awarded to the counter-proposer. This system has been used by several state governments.

Railway minister Suresh Prabhu tweeted, “E-bidding process leaves no discretion … it will be a very transparent method. All bids will be done only through web-based bidding process, it will see evaluation by independent experts. Budget announcement fulfilled.”

Prabhu added, “This move is a very big step towards passenger service, modernization and job creation.” He clarified that land ownership will remain with the railways. “Station will be developed to use land and air rights, no selling of land. Customer service is our priority,” he tweeted.

A senior railway official said private players would be engaged to modernize passenger amenities at stations while they would be allowed to commercially exploit the real estate around the stations in the heart of the city. The transporter’s earlier moves to modernize stations and transform them into world-class facilities have not been very successful.

The six-laning of the eastern peripheral expressway will cost an estimated Rs 7,558 crore, including Rs 1,795.20 crore for land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation and other pre-construction activities. The total length of the road will be 135km.

The long-awaited highway, along with the western peripheral expressway, will encircle Delhi and ensure that traffic not destined for the capital does not enter the city.

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