Diamond trade hub Surat has stolen a march over financial capital Mumbai. The Indian Railways has decided to use Surat — the second largest city in Gujarat — as the springboard for its plan of redeveloping 400 A1 and A grade stations across the country into high-end facilities. Its station will be transformed into a multi-mode transportation hub.
The Union cabinet had last year approved the railways’ grand plan of redeveloping on a public-private partnership mode 400 such stations, including 11 in Mumbai. Sources said it was a given that the project would be launched in Mumbai since its densely crowded stations — with a conservative figure of 80 lakh commuters a day — help the railways rake in crores of rupees.
Plan in action
The Surat station’s redevelopment is being undertaken by the Indian Railways Station Development Corporation Limited (IRSDCL), a public sector undertaking. A pre-bid qualification discussion to rope in private developers for the Rs 600-crore project was held yesterday.
“For the 400 stations, we will appoint a strategic consultant soon. They will help us design the stations,” said SK Lohia, CEO of IRSDCL.
Railway officials said Surat was chosen as the launchpad of the project because it is a “vital junction” in terms of its connectivity with both Mumbai and Delhi.
As part of the project, multiple transport facilities like train, autorickshaw, Metro and bus services will be integrated. Besides, hotels, shopping malls, boarding and lodging facilities and even commercial complexes will be set up on the premises as part of vertical development of the Surat station.
Railway officials say barring Ghatkopar and Andheri, no other Mumbai station offers interconnectivity of different modes of transport. They added that all stations have issues with entry and exit points, and the redevelopment project would have addressed these on top priority.
A la CST revamp plan
Both Western and Central Railway (CR) authorities have held meetings with private developers who had shown interest in the project, some of whom were the biggies in the business.
But this plan has gone the same way as the project to transform the iconic CST into a world-class station.
Nearly 10 years after it announced its plan to turn CST into a world-class station, the Indian Railways last year put on hold the project since the Railway Board wanted to conduct a fresh study of the proposal before giving the go-ahead to it.
However, the CR is optimistic that CST’s revamp is on the cards. “We are going forward with the creation of a fast corridor on the Harbour line, the extension of two new lines till CST and creating a fort-like structure in memory of Chhatrapati Shivaji at CST. The only issue is with the buffer zones, which have a height restriction of 24 m,” said a senior CR official.