‘Redeveloped stations will function as City Centre Rail Malls’
By Rajiv Raghunath - March 26, 2021
Sanjeev Kumar Lohia, MD & CEO, Indian Railway Stations Development Corporation (IRSDC) sees huge scope for private participation in the modernisation of railway stations that will also pave the way for innovative railway media advertising avenues. OOH firms could play a key part in railway station operations on as in the case of redeveloped airports, he states.
IRSDC was designated by the Railway Board in October 2018 as the nodal agency for development and re-development of railway stations across the country. Currently, how many railway stations are being developed or redeveloped by IRDSC, and what would be the transformative changes in those stations?
Currently IRSDC is in the final stage of completion of two redeveloped stations, one on PPP mode at Habibganj (Bhopal) and second on EPC in Gandhinagar (Gujarat) in JV with Government of Gujarat. Both these projects will be completed by March 31, 2021. In addition to these two stations, IRSDC has already awarded tenders on EPC mode to redevelop Bijwasan (Delhi) Railway Station. Furthermore, IRSDC has invited RfQ (Request for Qualification) for five stations, namely Nagpur, Gwalior, Sabarmati, Amritsar and CSMT (Mumbai). Presently the project development/execution of a total of 63 stations is in progress by IRSDC across India.
Redevelopment of stations is not simply facade improvement but involves transformational changes in terms of:
- Segregation of arrival and departure
- Creation of large concourse to give an airport like experience for comfortable waiting and retail facility instead of waiting on platform for passenger through roof over platforms for passenger comfort
- Divyang-friendly features throughout the building with ample lifts, escalators, and travelators
- Improved passenger amenities and communication system
- Food plazas, retails, waiting areas, etc.
- Well-designed passenger information system
- Removal of congestion etc.
Redeveloped stations building will act as a “City Centre Rail Mall” where transportation is one of the functions, and people would like to spend more time at the station.
To what extent has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the station development projects?
Covid-19 pandemic has definitely impacted station development projects which were ongoing and project development activities of other projects as well, as there was lot of uncertainty in the market. However, with the economy showing signs of revival, the pace has picked up of late and with user charges notification in the coming months it will further gain momentum.
Which of the re-developed or newly developed stations would be operational in the current year?
As I mentioned, Habibganj (Bhopal) and Gandhinagar (Gujarat) redeveloped stations would be operational in the current year. In Gandhinagar, for the first time in the country, a Five Star hotel has been created on the air space above the tracks. The entire design and construction of this building was a technological, design and construction challenge.
Have you planned for any new and innovative media investment opportunities in the new stations. If yes, what would be those opportunities?
At the stations -- whether redeveloped stations or the stations which IRSDC will be taking up on standalone facility management, new media investment opportunities are being conceived. At the Habibganj redeveloped station instead of conventional LED Board for coach display board, LED TVs have been used for the coach display which not only display the coach number but also the coach position, time and advertisements. Similar passenger information screens shall be developed at various locations including food courts, plaza, lounges, waiting areas. We would be open to other innovative ideas also if industry would like to suggest.
More recently, there were news reports referring to privatisation of operations of major railway stations like New Delhi Railway Station and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus in Mumbai. Are you seeing any major investor interest in these areas?
New Delhi and Chhatrapati Shivaji MaharajTerminus in Mumbai are proposed for redevelopment like other stations. Both these are iconic projects for Indian Railways. There has been huge investor interest for these stations. Nine applications have been received for New Delhi and 10 applications for Chhatrapati Shivaji MaharajTerminus in Mumbai.
Do you see scope for privatisation of a large number of railway stations, and whether advertising firms could play a part in railway station operations?
There is huge scope for attracting private sector for redevelopment as well as integrated facility management for a large number of railway stations. As the experience at redeveloped airports have shown, there is a major role which advertisement firms can play in the railway station operations on similar lines as in the case of redeveloped airports.
With modernisation of railway stations, do you expect to see any changes in the profile of railway passengers, who are also audiences for railway station advertising?
With the modernisation of railway stations, running of more Tejas kind of trains, private trains, as well as introduction of more air-conditioned coaches in the trains, there is all likelihood of a change in the profile of railway passengers as well as the dwell time of passengers, visitors at railway stations who are the audiences for railway station advertisements.