Promises on rly station not on track

Promises on rly station not on track

The century old Mangalore Railway Station. DH photo/Chandrahas Kotekar

Mangaloreans were excited when the then Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee announced a surprise gift to Mangalore on June 3, 2009 in the railway budget. The gift: Upgradation of Mangalore railway station into a World Class Station (WCS). Besides, the budget also earmarked Rs 800 crore for civil works in Karnataka, which is twice what it got in the previous year.

After that, Mamata presented railway budgets twice, but the upgradation of Mangalore railway station lies only on paper.

What is WCS?

The railway station which has the facilities of international standard is termed as World Class Station (WCS). The concept was introduced in 2009-10 railway budget by Mamata Banerjii. The WCS includes superior service to passengers, smooth and safe road traffic flow to and from the station, adequate parking facilities, real and perceived security of high standards, surveillance of CCTV, multi–functional complexes, food courts, shopping facilities etc. The construction of WCS will be in a sustainable and environmental-friendly way and constructed in a Public Private Partnership (PPP).

The confusion

In the 2009-10 budget, Mamata Banerjee announced that 50 stations across India will be upgraded into world class stations.(In the next year budget, 10 more stations were included in the list). It includes three stations in Karnataka, namely Bangalore City, Baiyapanahalli and Mangalore. Some of the other stations included in the plan were Mumbai CST, New Delhi, Kochi, Trivandrum, Howrah, Guwahati and Lucknow.

Even though Mangalore has been promised a WCS, the minister did not specify whether it would be the upgradation of an existing station or building a new one. The two stations, Mangalore Central in Hampankatta and Mangalore Junction in Kankanady, both are having problems to comply with the WCS regulations. The Railways don’t have land in Mangalore Central to develop it into a world class level. Moreover, all the trains which go to North India cannot come to the central station. So the railways selected the second option, the Mangalore Junction railway station at Kankanady for upgradation. But the station is far from the city and doesn’t have proper travelling facilities.

The move to construct WCS at Mangalore Junction was also opposed by the district administration, Mangalore City Corporation and political parties citing the same reason. Since the land acquisition is possible only if there is a consensus between Railway authority, civic bodies and political parties, the railways was forced to search for other land.

Yekkur, which is located between two stations was also considered, but the move was later dropped because the levelling of land would cost crores of rupees which was not feasible.  The total estimate of the WCS project in Mangalore is 50 crores. The railway requires minimum 50 acres of land to develop world class station. Now the Railway has identified land between Mangalore Junction and Nethravathi near Jeppu Kudupady, but is awaiting for the nod from civic bodies and people’s representatives. “We have identified the land. But it requires consensus among the three parties. That is the Railways, Civic bodies and political parties,” said Railways Area Officer (Palakkad Division) G Prabhakar. “We can only proceed, if the Government agrees. Once it has been done, then the ball is in our court,” he added.

He also admits that they have not yet received any letter from top regarding the time frame to finish the work or about the facilities in the station.

The proposed WCS will be developed through Public Private Partnership (PPP). “The chances of levying luxury taxes for food items etc inside the proposed station like in airports is remote,” say railway sources. The minimum time required to complete the WCS station cannot be specified now, as this is the first of its kind in India.

Out of the 60 stations selected for upgradation to WCS, only three stations have started the primary works. In Southern Railways, only Chennai started the initial works.
Mangalore is one of the busiest railway stations handling an estimate of 8000 passengers per day.

The World Class Station will surely help to solve many problems of the passengers and authorities regarding travelling facilities. If the authorities and people’s representatives reach at a consensus, then it would be a feather on the cap of Mangalore.

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