Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to inaugurate the newly revamped Gandhinagar railway station on July 15 or July 16. It is a first-of-its-kind in the Indian Railways network to have a five-star hotel on the tracks. Besides, the aquatic gallery, robotic gallery and a nature park, as part of Science City phase-II developments in Ahmedabad, are also scheduled for inauguration next week by the Prime Minister.
“Modi is likely to inaugurate the project on July 15 or 16. Date is yet to be finalised,” said a senior official from the state government. The project — for which Modi conducted the “Bhoomi Poojan” ceremony in 2017 — was scheduled to be completed by January 2019. The timeline for completion was later extended to September 2020. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the date of completion of the hotel and redevelopment of Gandhinagar railway station was extended to December 2020.
“The project is 98 per cent complete. Finishing touches are being given. Simulations are being conducted for the 5-star hotel which will be operated and managed by Hotel Leela Ventures Limited (now Schloss HMA Pvt Ltd). It is actually a trial run before the actual operations begin,” the official added.
According to the annual report of Gandhinagar Railway and Urban Development Corporation Limited (GARUD) for the year 2019-20, tabled in the Gujarat Assembly in October 2020, the cost of redeveloping the railway station and building a 318-room five-star hotel over it has escalated by 208 per cent in three years. The project, where 18 more hotel rooms have been added and the area increased will now cost almost Rs 750 crore. GARUD which is in charge of the project 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 Indian Express had earlier reported that most of the escalation in costs in this project was 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 rooms 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 are 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 have been added. Similarly, the area of concourse which was 6,500 square meters will now stand at 11,930 square meters.
The project which also had plans to house the GARUD office of 2,900 square meters has also been done away. The project cost not only includes a hotel and a revamped railway station, but also involves cost of building a railway underpass and an approach road to the station.
The aquatic gallery, spread over a built-up area of over 15,000 square metre and constructed by Shapoorji Pallonji and New Zealand-based Marinescape, has been in the works since the past three years, said a department of science and technology (DST) official.
The 260-crore project, which also includes the cost of operation and maintenance for five years, was conceptualised by INI Design Studio in Ahmedabad and will include a 28-meter shark tunnel. The aquatic gallery houses tanks with fresh water, brackish water and marine water so as to support a sliver of marine ecosystems from around the globe, categorised as Indian zone, Asian zone, African zone, American zone, oceans of the world, river exhibits, as well as a penguin zone, where African penguins are expected to be exhibited.
The robotic gallery, spread over 1,100 square metre, not only has robots serving dosas (also made by robots), at its robotic-themed cafeteria, but also includes an augmented and virtual reality gallery. Designed to be “one-of-its-kind human-robot interaction in a museum”, the gallery will make available for visitors a 3-D printed bust of theirs while also taking visitors through the evolution of robotics — from rudimentary functions to advanced Asimo, a humanoid robot. One can also duel out at ice hockey against a robotic arm followed by a ‘natya-mandap’ performance by robots to Bollywood songs. The robotic gallery costs Rs 127 crore, which includes operation and maintenance for five years, to be undertaken by Cube Construction, which was the firm that constructed the gallery.
The nature park spread over eight hectares and costing Rs 14 crore has a butterfly garden, a mist bamboo tunnel and cactus arena.