Huge costs derail Railways' plan for world class stations

A P Mishra, member of the engineering division of the Railway Board, told a press conference here on Saturday that the plans for 50-odd such stations in the country would  have to be scaled down following the initial estimate for the proposed New Delhi world class station running into a whopping Rs 12,000 crore.

“This estimate is much higher than what we can afford to spend. Therefore, we are trying to scale down the project in a big way,” Mishra said.

He said the work on world class stations was to be executed on a public-private-partnership basis, but the land would have to be provided by the Railways under the plan.

Initial plans for the New Delhi station, for example, consisted of acquiring large tracts of land. And the compensation for this land formed a considerable share of the Rs 12,000-crore plan.

“It is not appropriate to invest so much amount in one station. We have to prioritise our resources. Right now, our money is being spent on consolidating and expanding our networks like doubling and quadrupling our lines. We have not shelved the projects, but we are definitely rethinking it on a smaller scale,” Mishra clarified.

The acquisition of land in and around stations, which are more often located in the heart of the city, is also fraught with other problems.

“We have to seek the approval of too many authorities for land. In Delhi alone we require the approval of 22 agencies to go ahead,” he said.

What seems to have finally dawned on the Railways is that people are looking for simple amenities and not parks and gardens.

Ultimately, what a passenger looks for is sufficient parking space for vehicles, proper access to platforms, availability of clean food and a place to wait, among others.

“We will now be concentrating more on providing these facilities,” Mishra admitted.
The Indian Railways might have decided only to cut the cost of constructing stations, but the problems dogging the Byappanahalli and Bangalore City stations should have given them a hint of the problems ahead.

Railway officials estimated that the cost of upgrading the Byappanahalli station would be Rs 1,500 crore. Apart from this, nothing is really certain.

Land requirement

The Railways had originally asked for 90 acres belonging to the NGEF, but the state government sought a deposit of Rs 200 crore.

The Railways later scaled down the land requirement to 50 acres.
But even that is yet to come by as the State is still asking for the deposit and the Railways finds itself unable to pay such a huge amount.

The NGEF land itself is under litigation and the state is in no position to really hand it over to the Railways.

For the Bangalore city station to be developed, the government may have to part with Binny Mills land. Even here there are too many obstacles.

Reviving the task force

State and Railways officials who met three days ago have decided to resuscitate the task force led by the chief secretary to monitor railway projects. The State has agreed to hand over free land to the Railways for laying tracks.

However, when it comes to acquisition of property within city limits for development of a railway station, the State is not in a position to hand it over for free.


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