Stating that the time may have come to think about a public-private body to operate Mumbais suburban railway system,Union Minister for Railways Dinesh Trivedi said on Friday that he sees potential for an initial private role in developing railway stations in Mumbai. As much as 30 per cent of revenues in the suburban system could come from commercially developed station complexes in the foreseeable future,he said.
Responding to questions about private participation in developing the railways,Trivedi said,The answer is a big yes. The time may have come to think about an SPV for the suburban system. Suburban railways have their own unique problems and advantages. I have briefly talked about this,we could think of making the Mumbai suburban system a model, he said. Operations would continue to be controlled by the Railways,he said,adding that the private sector may also be considered for supply of rolling stock,signalling systems and rail tracks.
Trivedi also paid a visit to Dadar Railway station earlier in the day,one of the stations earmarked for a proposed private commercial development. With PPP,stations could be developed like airports, he said. With Mumbai’s suburban railway stations occupying prime real estate,the Ministry is considering various proposals for their makeover with private investments,by making use of vertical space available. On Dadar,he said there is a major plan to revamp the station complex,integrate and increase the circulation area and turn it into a world class station. “But there is a capital requirement for this, he said. As much as 45 per cent of the Indian Railways’ traffic comes from suburban railway systems,Mumbai’s being the biggest by far.
In Mumbai to hear specific demands and concerns voiced by Members of Parliament days before he delivers his maiden Railway Budget estimates for the coming year,Trivedi admitted that the Indian Railways is going through a critical period with the list of development works required climbing and resources inadequate. The Indian Railways’ finances are “not in a very comfortable position” he said,adding that while a system as large and complex as the Mumbai suburban system undoubtedly needs an upgrade,there are more demands than resources available,leading to the ministry’s efforts to approach state governments for projects to be executed in partnerships. A mix of all four resource avenues budgetary provisions,internal resource mobilisation,borrowing and PPP would be necessary to tackle the resource crunch,he said.
On safety and the continuing deaths of passengers along the suburban railway tracks,Trivedi said the continuing rate of fatal accidents was unacceptable today. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that there is not even one death.. a tall order but one that has to be addressed, he said.
Mumbai’s Parliamentarians,including Priya Dutt and Eknath Gaikwad,also raised the issue of rehabilitating slumdwellers along Mumbai’s railway tracks. A one-third formula has been suggested, said Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan. The plan would involve relocating slumdwellers while the railways and state government would share the cleared land.