IR Station Redevelopment Program: Big Step towards passenger amenities

A comprehensive overview of the ambitious Indian Railways Station Redevelopment Program, its phases, funding models, and global perspectives.

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Proposed Redevelopment Model of New Delhi Railway Station
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Station Redevelopment Program in India: An Overview

One of India’s largest infrastructure programmes is the Indian Railways Station Redevelopment Programme. Indian Railways, in initial stages, planned to renovate and redevelop more than 400 stations spanning hundreds of cities in numerous phases, with around 2,700 acres of encroachment-free land accessible for commercial development. The programme has a budget of more than INR 1 lakh crore. A detailed execution roadmap, learnings from global and comparable programmes, proper organisation and governance structure, new and appropriate capabilities, robust analysis and modelling, funding, and continuous interaction with a large number of stakeholders are required for the successful execution of a programme of this scale. 

While the programme will continue to expand and integrate innovations and feedback, a number of stations have already entered the public domain or are in the midst of redevelopment following bidding. For all interested participants and stakeholders, it is important to explain multiple aspects of the station development project and to lay out existing and possible thinking about this programme. The content discusses an introduction to the programme, learnings from other parts of the world, various modes of station development being deployed by Indian Railways, programme details of the stations available for bidding under PPP (Public Private Partnership), and learning on PPP opportunities and challenges, as well as key imperatives to make this programme a success. The following are highlights of the important elements addressed above:

  • Many railway systems across the world have redeveloped or are attempting to reconstruct and change their railway stations. Redeveloped stations contribute to revenue in addition to enhancing the passenger experience. Ancillary income can account for up to twenty per cent of overall revenues in a number of railway systems. Learnings from various models, such as Tokyo Station, Deutsche Bahn’s digital interventions for railway stations, Melbourne’s Southern Cross Station reconstruction under PPP, and the transformation journey of SNCF stations, are useful.
  • The Indian Railways is adopting a variety of approaches to attain the goal of station redevelopment. These include a modified version of the Swiss Challenge model (PPP), traditional PPP, collaboration with state governments, G2G arrangements, and collaboration with PSUs, the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), and other ministries and organisations. The modified Swiss Challenge model was chosen for the initial set of 23 stations, which include around 140 acres of commercial land and more than 3.3 million daily footfalls. IRSDC (Indian Railway Station Development Corporation Limited) is redeveloping 12 more stations using traditional public-private partnership (PPP) and engineering procurement and construction (EPC) model & techniques. 
  • PPP programmes and the issues they raise have previously been researched. Through this programme, the Indian Railways is pursuing PPP on a massive scale. It is necessary to investigate several types of PPP variations that may be applicable for Indian Railways for various types of stations. 
  • This programme requires a well-defined organisational structure, capability development, finance, an O&M (Operations and Maintenance) plan, fine-tuned revenue and cost models, policy, and the phasing of stations proposed and suggested under redevelopment.
  • Each stakeholder plays an important role in such a programme, and understanding their perspectives can aid with proper design and successful execution. The perspectives of various stakeholders in the programme, such as banks and developers, with essential characteristics of the programme and items required to prepare for a successful long-term rollout of the programme, also need to be focussed.

 

Introduction

Indian Railways is one of the world’s largest railway systems, and it continues to be the principal driver for the country’s socioeconomic development. As per various studies conducted, it has been found that a rail system is six times more energy efficient and four times more cost-effective than a road system. Rail construction expenses are roughly six times lesser than road construction costs for equal traffic levels. The Indian Railways accounts for around one per cent of India’s Gross National Product (GNP) and serves as the backbone of the core sector’s freight needs. It also directly employs roughly seven per cent of the total workforce in the organised sector and indirectly employs an additional 2.5 per cent.

The Indian Railways has done well in terms of both freight and passenger traffic. However, the Indian economy is undergoing numerous changes, including evolving government policies promoting renewable energy, new economic activity necessitating shorter and more responsive supply chains, and increased growth in transportation across various sectors such as aircraft, roadways, and shipping. Massive investments are now necessary to improve railway infrastructure and transform the Indian Railways into a modern transportation system and help the national transporter remain relevant in this changing landscape. Investments are needed in all areas, including capacity enhancement, de-bottlenecking, safety measures, and passenger comforts. Many of these investments and initiatives require significant capital and management expertise. Projects like the redevelopment of railway stations are peculiar and uncommon in such an environment. It provides a PPP opportunity that utilises private resources and competencies while providing good returns to railways and the development of one of their main assets—railway stations.

 

Plan to Redevelop Railway Stations

Redevelopment of railway stations via the PPP model is one of the most ambitious and visible programmes initiated by the Government of India and the Ministry of Railways. This has been planned to be accomplished by commercialising surplus railway land and reinvesting the profits in station refurbishment. The massive station redevelopment plan has an outlay of more than INR 1 lakh crore and provides possibilities for private sector entities, both Indian and foreign, to participate through different public-private partnership mechanisms and government agencies. Indian Railways has about 8,000 stations in total, many of which it plans to renovate to improve standards and passenger facilities. Currently, the stations are divided into seven categories based on yearly passenger traffic profits. Around 400 of them are classed as A1 and A category stations, which have substantial passenger earnings owing to their locations in metros, important tourist destinations, and pilgrimage centres and are thus prioritised for redevelopment. The Railway Board has built a database for these stations and made it public on its website.

Real estate at railway stations is a crucial asset that the railways intends to use to pay for this journey. Along with the expansion of the 400 railway stations spread throughout 100 leading cities in India, roughly 2,700 acres of valuable encroachment-free land has been planned to be provided for commercial development. In addition to the A1 and A stations, Indian Railways has a number of other important station assets. These stations are particularly important and are located on the commuter routes in metros.

It may be noted that railway stations such as Churchgate and Chanakyapuri can provide once-in-a-lifetime redevelopment opportunities. Indian Railways plans on expanding systematically on all other stations adopting appropriate models.

 

Salient Features of the Station Redevelopment Program

  • Encroachment-free land with clear titles
  • Hundred per cent FDI allowed
  • 45 years lease period
  • Bidding by consortium allowed
  • Transparent and objective selection process

 

Redevelopment to be rolled out in Multiple Phases

The Railways has plans to carry out the redevelopment and refurbishment programme for around four-hundred stations in phases, with 23 stations in the first phase, approximately 50 stations in the second phase, and the remaining stations thereafter. The Indian Railways has established the Indian Railway Stations Development Corporation Limited (IRSDC) as a specialised organisation to anchor some of the redevelopment projects using EPC or PPP methods. The IRSDC is constructing 12 stations using Public Private Partnership (PPP) and EPC concepts. The Indian Railways intends to expedite the redevelopment of 400 A1 and A category stations by involving several agencies, including all Zonal Railways. The stations will be opened for redevelopment on an ‘as is, where is’ basis.

 

Land Lease for Funding

As stated, the Indian Railways has planned to lease surplus railway land to private firms for commercial development for a period of up to 45 years, with the surplus fund generated used to modernise and maintain railway stations. This will have two benefits: new and modern amenities at train stations will be supplied, and world-class infrastructure will be created in the neighbourhood of these stations. Surface or basement parking, seamless accessibility for the specially-abled, swipe ticket entry machines, well-lit circulating area, clean and modern washrooms, free and paid Wi-Fi options, pharmacy, ATMs, CCTV with an integrated security system, medical facilities or standby ambulances, LED lights, ramps for the differently abled, tourist information and facilitation centre, F&B and entertainment facilities, hotels, lounges and conference facilities along with basic facilities are some of the amenities that have been envisaged. 

To guarantee timely and trouble-free programme implementation, the Railways is also making efforts such as appointing nodal officers with dedicated teams in each zone and partnering with state governments for accelerated clearances. All of these measures and initiatives are expected to encourage the corporate sector to eagerly participate in the programme.

Station Redevelopment: Global Perspective

Railways all throughout the world have begun large-scale station redevelopment programs and projects. Many stations have become icons and symbols of the city’s growth. Redeveloping a station is a difficult process that includes several essential elements. The safety and security of passengers should be focussed and needs to be prioritised in the reconstruction strategy. Additionally, seamless passenger flow, comfort, and safety can improve the entire consumer experience.

Different forms of traffic simulations may uncover possible hotspots of pedestrian congestion at stations for smooth passenger flow. Therefore, such simulations can be used to improve the customer experience by effectively arranging space, including the location of retail establishments. In terms of security, data analytics and artificial intelligence, as well as integrated security systems, can be used to make stations more secure. Additionally, digital technologies can also be deployed to improve the passenger experience. Most digital solutions currently remain confined to the travel planning and booking stages. However, there is a lot of potential for implementing digital solutions when the passenger arrives or departs from the station. Few railway systems have studied and implemented such ideas as part of their station redevelopment programme with success.

A further vital aspect is the development of long-term infrastructure. The infrastructure should be designed in accordance with green building concepts and standards, which imply that alternative energy sources such as solar should be utilised for power and heating. Green buildings can include elements such as energy-efficient lighting, waterless urinals, and the use of biodegradable materials. As previously stated, stations around the world have undergone several renovations, and a number of these components may be examined for the Indian Railways programme. Deutsche Bahn, SNCF, Tokyo, and Melbourne’s Southern Cross Station renovation programmes are among the most famous global station refurbishment and redevelopment programmes.

Tokyo Station Redevelopment

Tokyo Railway Station has become an iconic landmark and an example of how contemporary facilities may be integrated into an existing spatial structure. Underground pathways featuring a range of shopping and dining options, as well as hotels, complete and make up this transit-oriented complex. The emphasis on customer service and experience is evident throughout the station. Large signboards, various ticketing kiosks, and easy and quick access to mainline platforms are all signs of a ‘customer first’ approach and orientation. The facility also offers luxury amenities like spas, saloons, and hotels for passengers to enjoy before boarding the train, which helps in generating additional money.

Redevelopment of Southern Cross Station in Melbourne through PPP

The redevelopment of Southern Cross Railway Station is an example of a well-managed and conducted PPP arrangement. Spencer Street Station Authority entered into a public-private partnership (PPP) deal with a private consortium (City Nexus) to refurbish and run Melbourne’s Southern Cross Railway station. The consortium was in charge of creating the station, including construction. The concession period spanned for thirty years after construction was completed. After completion of the construction works, the business entity has been entitled to receive quarterly payments to compensate for the station’s construction, operation, and insurance.

SNCF’s Stations Redevelopment

After redeveloping Saint-Lazare Railway Station in 2012, SNCF, France’s national and state-owned railways company, embarked on an ambitious mission to redevelop 400+ stations, with one of the goals being to double non-fare revenue. It established a separate BU for redeveloping these stations.

Saint-Lazare is the second busiest station in Paris, with a total space of nearly 30,000 square metres. The station’s overall refurbishment and redevelopment cost was estimated at €250 million. Klépierre, a private company, spent €160 million to develop a three-story shopping centre beneath the iconic terminus. The station reopened in 2012 after undergoing renovations, and its model was deemed successful. Many stations had been planned to be renovated under a similar model by 2022. The role of public funding & finance is a key aspect of these station refurbishment journeys. Railways are widely seen as a public good that requires public investment. PPP approaches lower the amount of public investment required, but a successful national programme will still require both public and private funding.

Deutsche Bahn’s Digital Transformation

Deutsche Bahn (DB) operates a massive network of around 5400 railway stations and generates over €40 billion as yearly income & revenues. According to DB’s CEO, the digitisation of stations is one of the most significant changes in the past twenty years. One of the program’s important success criteria is robust planning for total transformation. The entire passenger trip, was considered while designing the transformation programme and ensuring that it is incorporated in the system and processes and forms part of day-to-day operations.

 DB developed three complete digital pillars: customer centricity, operational excellence, and an innovative culture.

  • Customer Centricity: The advent of a neutral multi-model platform with the integration of multiple means of mobility created a completely integrated platform for clients.
  • Operational Excellence: Several tools were introduced to attain operational excellence. These include virtual construction project planning and maintenance utilising digital services. These have significantly enhanced the efficiency of DB’s daily operations. It has had an equivalent influence on the operations of stations.
  • Innovative Culture: The establishment of d.lab for prototyping mobility services demonstrates how an enterprise of this size and scale can promote an innovative culture throughout the organisation.

 Modified Swiss Challenge Model

Recognising the necessity to move trains in parallel on a wide number of stations while also providing flexibility to private developers in station design, the Indian Railways has put in place and implemented an innovation and approach known as the ‘Modified Swiss Challenge’ model. This innovation and technique allows the private developer to be involved from the beginning to the end and allows for simultaneous project processing. This concept is intended to be designed and guided centrally by the Railway Board before being owned and implemented by different Zonal Railways. The model is new, and it necessitates efforts and investments in communication and participant onboarding. The entire procedure can be looked at as a two-stage process with major steps outlined below:

Stage 1

  1. Release of Invitation Document: The Project Information Memorandum, which includes facts and details of land availability and passenger traffic forecasts, as well as a process description and essential roles of the developers are provided.
  2. Submission: The developers submit eligibility records and documents (technical and financial) together with the technical proposal, which includes preliminary designs, BOQs, construction methods, and a phasing plan.
  3. Evaluation: Applicants are short-listed based on minimum technical and financial scores based on prior experience in related projects, funding and monetary requirements. Prior to submission, the scoring mechanism of a technical bid is usually publicised. Internal and external committees designated by Railways score and rate each candidate objectively.
  4. Project Proponent Selection: The project proponent is chosen at this stage based on the aforesaid evaluation. The proponent is needed to prepare a detailed project report (DPR).
  5. DPR creation and submission: The DPR is developed by the project proponent in discussions and collaboration with the Zonal Railways. Detailed drawings, bills of quantities, costing, estimates and quotations for station redevelopment project to be undertaken are key aspects of the DPR.

Stage 2

  1. Release of bidding document and DPR: The DPR generated by the project proponent is now published. All applicants who meet the minimal technical and financial requirements are eligible to bid for the project. This is analogous and similar in nature to an RFP.
  2. Bid Submission: Applicants submit technical and financial eligibility paperwork and documents, as well as financial bids, in response to the DPR.
  3. Evaluation of Bids: Bidders are short-listed based on minimum technical and financial thresholds. The winner is determined based on the highest project premium quoted by a qualified applicant.
  4. Project Proponent Veto: If the highest bidder outbids the project proponent, the project proponent will be offered the option to match the highest bid. If the proponent’s bid is higher than the highest bid, the project will be awarded to the proponent. The project proponent has the right of first refusal (ROFR). If the project is won by someone else, the project winner must pay DPR compensation to the proponent.
  5. Issue of LOA: LOAs are issued and handed over to the winner within a specific time period.

Learning Notes from Global Station redevelopment program

Station renovation and redevelopment is a massive undertaking and mega-scale program. While the headlines focus on 400 A1 and A category stations that are open to private developers and investors, other stations are also being focussed on redevelopment through a number of means and avenues. Even for initiatives accessible to private participation, there are multiple options available on methods and modalities. As one of the country’s and the world’s greatest transit-oriented development programmes, Indian Railways must grab and maintain the attention of all stakeholders in the programme. Other than the developers, there are several government and public sector organisations with similar interests and competencies that can collaborate on this programme. This programme may have synergies with several state governments and numerous initiatives of other central ministries.

The association of these bodies will, in reality, benefit the programme because rebuilding initiatives require the major alignment of numerous agencies, each with their own jurisdiction. Therefore Indian Railways is willing to take numerous paths towards the same goal of station redevelopment and modernisation. Some of the paths mentioned in the press include a modified Swiss Challenge PPP model through Zonal Railways, PPP through IRSDC, EPC through IRSDC, G2G, working with marquee PSUs, collaboration with the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), and other ministries and agencies, as well as collaboration with state governments.

Focusing on the redevelopment potential available to private developers, it is important to highlight key factors that will entice the government and other public bodies to collaborate with Indian Railways on this programme. This is significant as a sizeable number of stations (out of a pool of over 8,000 stations) may not have suitable financial worth for private capital but may have other intrinsic value and have thus been investigated using various models. Among the most important considerations are:

 

  • Railway stations in smart cities can be built in partnership with the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), which plans to build an integrated transportation infrastructure in smart cities. Railway stations can often serve as the focal point for such projects. Indian Railways already has an agreement in place for such a collaboration.
  • The Ministries of Coal and Defence may be interested in establishing stations in close vicinity to coal mines or towns and defence locations respectively. These stations are supposed to fulfill unique strategic and operational interests.
  • Some stations may be of high ‘signalling’ value to state governments, and they may be interested in cooperating with the Indian Railways to develop these stations. For example, newly constituted states may have large master plan improvements and developments for their capital or certain geographies.
  • Foreign governments may be interested in establishing stations that might help in strengthening bilateral relations and provide a large and meaningful opportunity to the business communities and entities in the countries they represent.
  • Foreign finance organisations, such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, may be interested in station infrastructure projects because they clearly qualify as strategic public goods that are crucial for improving numerous socioeconomic indicators.

 Conclusion

Indian Railways has begun a massive transformation effort to build world-class railway stations. Railway Station Redevelopment Programme was initiated by the Government of India to redevelop 400 railway stations across India at a cost of Rs 1 lakh crore under Public Private Partnership (PPP). The programme aimed to improve passenger amenities by using and leveraging real estate available with railways to fund the construction and development. The station redevelopment project is well underway and would cost Rs 258.57 crore to be developed. Tata Consulting Engineer had been allocated the work of Project Management Services (PMS- responsible for monitoring the redevelopment works) on September 23, 2022. Under the Amrit Bharat Station scheme, the railways have decided to redevelop 1,275 railway stations in the fiscal year 2023-24. The national transporter has been allocated Rs 2.41 lakh crore over the upcoming fiscal.

Railway Station Redevelopment and Modernisation

  • The station redevelopment program and initiative of Indian Railways seeks to transform existing railway stations into city centres by increasing passenger amenities and leveraging the commercial development of land. The government has plans to redevelop 400 railway stations across India as part of the scheme, which is expected to cost more than Rs 1 trillion.
  • Currently, three railway stations have been redeveloped: Rani Kamlapati in Madhya Pradesh, Gandhinagar in Gujarat, and Sir M. Visvesvaraya Terminal in Karnataka, with several others such as Tirupati, Ayodhya, Secunderabad, and Nagpur under the processes for implementation.
  • Meanwhile, the redevelopment and renovation of Delhi, Mumbai, and Ahmedabad railway stations have been approved for nearly Rs 100 billion. Stations in Delhi and Mumbai were initially considered for development under the hybrid built-operate-transfer (PPP) system. Due to a poor response from the private sector, they are currently being undertaken on an EPC basis. In fact, for the approximately 200 stations proposed during Phase I of the project, EPC has been identified as the preferred form for execution and implementation.
  • Intelligent and green buildings, efficient energy/water conservation systems, and superior waste management systems all have been planned to be integrated with the developed stations. An elevated concourse, multi-level parking, food courts, hotels, and offices are among the proposed features.
  • The station redevelopment plan has additionally been planned to incorporate features of multimodal integration of transport systems, congestion-free passenger mobility, and commercial space monetisation around/above the stations. On similar lines, stations for high-speed rail and regional rapid transit systems are being built.

Under the Plan-Head Customer Amenities, the refurbishment, modernisation and upgradation of railway stations are being done. It is to note that the railway is spending roughly Rs. 2000 -2,500 crore every year for station redevelopment.

The Amrit Bharat Station Scheme

To modernise railway stations across India, the Union Ministry of Railways has initiated the Amrit Bharat Station Scheme. It needs to be noted that the Railway Board recently (in January 2023) decided that the works for stations identified for development/feasibility studies under previous references and orders issued by the Ministry of Railways and the Railway Board shall now be carried out under the Amrit Bharat Scheme. Indian Railways has designated a total of 1275 railway stations for redevelopment under the Amrit Bharat Station Scheme, including border areas. The ABSS will be a substantial shift in railway infrastructure, improving passenger experience and comfort. The scheme has several broad objectives, which are as follows:

  • Long-term planning and implementation of master plans for railway stations to improve facilities beyond the bare necessities, as well as the creation of roof plazas and city centres on station grounds.
  • Based on funding availability and priorities outlined, address and meet the needs of all stakeholders. The programme has been designed to allow and cater for the enhancement and replacement of existing amenities, as well as the addition of new ones.
  • It shall include stations that have undergone extensive techno-economic feasibility studies. However, because the reallocation of structures and utilities takes precedence, the roof plazas in these stations will not be built soon in the near future.
  • The scheme has been planned to be implemented in accordance with the demands and patronage of railway stations. This project shall ensure infrastructure development for over 1,000 small stations over the next few years.

 Scope of work and salient features

  • Platforms: High-level platforms would be provided for all types of railway stations under the proposal. On these platforms, drainage facilities will be enhanced, including the capping of drains with aesthetically designed theft-resistant covers.
  • Internet connectivity: Free Wi-Fi access shall be available to users at the train stations. The master plan also includes the construction of 5G towers.
  • Multi-design furniture: The furniture in the waiting rooms, platforms, retiring rooms, and offices has been proposed to be reviewed and examined. If required, the furniture shall be replaced to make it more comfortable and long-lasting.
  • Inclusivity: The railway stations will be equipped with amenities to meet the demands of Divyangjan. A sufficient number of restrooms shall be made available at all categories of Divyangjan stations. The restrooms are going to be designed and constructed in a way so that are easily reachable and visible.
  • Sustainability: Based on the availability of funds and the condition of existing assets, efforts will be made to gradually shift to sustainable and ecologically friendly alternatives.
  • Enhancing user experience: Attempts shall be made to organise different types of waiting spaces, as well as provide improved café and retail conveniences at railway station stations. To improve the experience of commuters and station users, well-planned parking locations, appropriately designed signage, enhanced lighting, the elimination of undesirable structures, and other similar attempts will be made. Elements such as better landscaping, green areas, and local art and culture will be used to further improve the user experience.

The Amrit Bharat Station Scheme envisions continual station development activities with a long-term perspective. The programme intends to improve the facilities by preparing Master Plans for railway stations and implementing them in phases. Attempts shall be made to group different grades/types of waiting halls and give good cafeteria/retail facilities as much as possible. High-level platforms (760-840 millimetres) have been proposed to be provided at all kinds of stations. Station approaches will be enhanced and improved to provide seamless access through the widening of roadways, removing unnecessary structures, appropriately designed signage, dedicated pedestrian walkways, well-planned parking places, increased lighting, and so on. Station amenities for Divyangjan shall be in accordance with Railway Board recommendations issued from time to time.

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