The cost of redeveloping the railway station in Gujarat’s Gandhinagar and building a five-star hotel over it has escalated by 208 per cent in the last three years. The project, where 18 more hotel rooms have been added and the area increased will now cost almost Rs 750 crore, is expected to be become functional only by December 2020.
“A unique model of station development has been tried out for the redevelopment of Gandhinagar station, where a 318 room five-star hotel is under construction above the tracks, for the first time in India,” states the annual report of Gandhinagar Railway and Urban Development Corporation Limited (GARUD) for the year 2019-20, tabled in the Gujarat Assembly during the just concluded monsoon session.
The company is a joint venture of Gujarat government and Ministry of Railways acting through Indian Railway Station Development Corporation Limited (IRSDC) with an equity shareholding in ratio of 74:26, respectively.
The Independent Auditor’s Report which is part of GARUD’s annual report states that project cost has “increased from Rs 243 crore to Rs 750 crore”. The report also states that the number of rooms in the five-star hotel stands at 318 which is 18 more than the one originally planned. According to official sources, most of the escalation in costs is due to the change in room matrix. The earlier plan was to build a 300-room hotel where 30 rooms will be of five-star category, 120 rooms in three-star category and 150 room in budget category. This was later changed and all the rooms — deluxe, super deluxe and suits — were changed to five-star category.
Further, structural changes suggested by the hotel operator added to the costs. Earlier, there were three towers with six-ten floors. This has been altered. Now there will be four towers which will have 9-13 floors. The total area of the hotel which was earlier 16,190 square meters, will now be 35,400 square meters.
Apart from this, sources said the average room size of the hotel which was 25 square meters has also been increased to 37 square meters and two “service floors” which was absent in the earlier plan has been added. Similarly, the area of concourse which was 6,500 square meters will now stand at 11,930 square meters.
“We have added extra rooms, so that we can make it more viable,” S S Rathore, Managing Director of GARUD, told The Indian Express.
The project which also had plans to house the GARUD office of 2,900 square meters has also been done away with and the entire space is now being used for the hotel which will be be managed by M/s Hotel Leela Ventures Limited (now Schloss HMA Pvt Ltd).
When asked about the escalation in costs, Rathore said that the cost of building a railway underbridge, an approach road and making changes to the earlier plan have contributed to the rise in costs.
The underpass below the railway station costing Rs 32 crore will provide direct acess to Vibrant Gujarat delegates and dignitaries arriving at the railway station or staying at the hotel.
The project — for which Prime Minister Narendra Modi conducted the “Bhoomi Poojan” ceremony in 2017 — was earlier scheduled to be completed by January 2019. The timeline for completion was later extended to September 2020. “It was expected to be completed by September 2020. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the date of completion of the hotel and redevelopment of Gandhinagar railway station is expected to be December 2020,” stated the annual report.
Though GARUD clocked Rs 5.4 crore profit for the year 2019-20, independent auditor LK Shah and Company pulled up the company for charging lower rates while renting out the Mahatma Mandir Convention Centre, the venue of biannual Vibrant Gujarat summit, and added that the move adversely impacted the company’s profit by Rs 32.12 lakh.
Aakar Exhibition Pvt Ltd, Radeecal Communication, Maskati Cloth Market, Star Exhibition, Indian Prosthodontic Society, AIMS Event and the Charitable Group of Photographic Trade and Industry Association were listed as those who were charged less than the prevailing rates. The operation and mangement of Mahatma Mandir is being done through M/s Hotel Leela Ventures Limited (now Schloss HM Pvt Ltd) and during 2019-20, 44 events were held that generated gross revenue of Rs 26.62 crore.
Similarly, GARUD has handed over the operation and maintenance of Helipad Exhibition Centre to K&D communications from November 1, 2019.
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