Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced in her Union Budget speech in Parliament on Saturday that the Indian Railways will redevelop four railway stations across the country on a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model. The announcement has once again brought back focus on an earlier decision made by the then UPA government in 2013, to redevelop five railway stations, including Pune’s Shivajinagar station, on a PPP model.
While four of the five stations — Habibganj (Bhopal), Chandigarh, Anand Vihar and Brijvasan (both in Delhi) — have seen some progress in the execution of this plan, work on this front is yet to take off at Shivajinagar station.
In 2013, following the Centre’s announcement, the Indian Railways Station Development Corporation (IRSDC) came up with an architectural plan for the project in March that year. The plan envisaged well-designed and spacious platforms, high-quality waiting rooms, avenues for easy access to the platforms, congestion-free concourses, and modern and state-of-the-art catering facilities, among other things.
Of the four other redevelopment projects announced at the time, work on the Habibganj station is nearing completion. Contracts have recently been awarded for the work on Chandigarh, Anand Vihar and Brijvasan stations.
Central Railway officials refused to comment on why the plan was yet to be implemented in Shivajinagar station. But an official of IRSDC said, “Work on finalisation of the DPR (detailed project report) is presently on and tenders for the project will be floated as soon as the DPR and business plan are finalised”.
During her Budget speech, Sitharaman didn’t name the four stations chosen for the PPP redevelopment. The Budget document also doesn’t have the names of these stations.
IRSDC public relations officer Chetna Magu said she “had no idea about the names of the stations yet”. Other officials of the corporation, however, said the four stations were likely to be Gwalior, Nagpur, Amritsar and Sabarmati, as requests for quotations (RFQ) for these stations were floated a month ago.
“Most probably, the speech referred to these four stations, RFQs for which have already been floated. The total expenditure on the redevelopment of these stations is pegged at nearly Rs 1,300 crore,” said an official.
‘Demand for more Mumbai, Pune connectivity not met’
Commuters and railway activists in the city have responded unfavourably to some of the announcements made by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman pertaining to the railways, such as setting up of solar power generation infrastructure alongside rail tracks, starting more ‘Tejas-type’ trains to connect iconic tourist destinations, and actively pushing the high-speed train project connecting Mumbai and Ahmedabad.
“Where is the available land to install solar panels along the tracks? We have been demanding that additional lines should be laid between Pune and Mumbai so that more trains can be run simultaneously, however there has been no action on those demands. The railways has been ruing the shortage of space in its possession. In and around Pune, a lot of the railway land along the tracks and near the stations has been encroached upon and illegal hutments have come up,” said Harsha Shah of the Railway Pravasi Group.
She asked, “If solar panels come up on the vacant land, where will the additional lines be laid?”
Shah also pointed out that the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed train project was originally supposed to connect Pune as well, but successive governments have not worked towards this goal despite high demand for such a rail connection.
Vikas Deshpande of Pune-Daund Commuters’ Group said there was no clarity how the government planned to push forward various incomplete projects in the Pune Division and rest of Maharashtra.
“Commuters who choose to travel in trains because that’s a cheaper option also want the commute to be comfortable and safe. While the budget made some grand announcements about solar panels and Tejas trains, nothing was said about what will be done to complete the various projects announced earlier,” said Deshpande.
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