In order to increase its revenue the Indian Railways, which posted a deficit of R32,067 crore in the 2015-16 financial year, has decided to tap into its biggest asset: property.
While increasing rail fare remains a challenge, the Railways has decided to make commercial use of land available to it. It plans to build commercial complexes at railway stations across the country, including Mumbai, and re-design its stations with modern amenities that will attract developers and business houses looking for office/retail space. This would be along the lines of the structure at Vashi station, constructed as a collaboration between Railways and CIDCO, in a revenue sharing model.
Eleven stations that fall within the Mumbai region are being considered for this commercial upgrade. On the Central line, there are CST (there will be no work on the heritage wing), Dadar, Kurla LTT, Thane, Kalyan and Panvel. On the Western line, there are Mumbai Central, Dadar, Bandra Terminus, Andheri and Borivali.
On March 17, the Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC) held a meeting on effective utilisation on land and redevelopment of railway stations. Sources said that railway authorities from London, Washington, Tokyo and Melbourne made presentations on how the stations could be re-developed. Prabhat Sahai, chairman and managing director of MRVC confirmed this.
Ideally, rail authorities are looking at buildings of 12-15 storeys at least. However, the floor space index (FSI) will be decided by the local civic body. Railways expect to get an FSI of at least 4-5. Already, the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) plans transit-oriented development for Metro Rail, in which an area within a 500-meter radius of its stations will have a higher FSI.
“The train continues to be the most important mode of transport in Mumbai and, if offices are in the same building as the station, there is a high chance that offices will take up this space and, we too will be able to earn revenue,” said a CR official.
“We have ample land at Mumbai Central which can be developed into a multi-storeyed building with parking lots,” said a WR official. Sources said that several developers have shown interest in the plan, but Railways needs to identify a proper financial model that will benefit all parties.
What could act as a downer, however, is the dull real estate market, especially for commercial development. Authorities fear enticing private developers into these multi-crore projects might be tough.