The Bold Voice of J&K

Unprecedented Transformation of Railway Stations

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D J Narain

Railway stations in India have been an integral part of memories of almost every individual of the nation. They also are vital symbol of not only the state of infrastructure and transport cum travel logistics of the nation but an important element of visual architectural landscape of the country. More than 2 crore Indians traverse through Indian stations each day, yet never before such an effort, as being done now, was put in place to modernize this essential part of Indian infrastructure and improve day to day travel experience of millions of its people.
As India takes determined steps towards multi trillion-dollar economy, mission of transformation of Railways stations, from being an accumulator of dirt, squalor and filth to being the clean bustling centers of comfortable travel, symbol of national pride and heritage and world class conveniences, is truly a remarkable. The mission is already beginning to show astonishing results.
These modernized Railway Stations are representative of a nation that is not only modernizing fast but also a governance that cares for its citizens.
Experiencing Indian Railways means experiencing India as a nation as well.
Before 2014, in the name of modernization, scattered efforts were being made to improve passenger amenities and improve the façade of very few busy Railway stations, with no visibility. After 2014,redevelopment of railway stations across India became a priority agenda of Ministry of Railway. This agenda is now being driven with full force by the Government.
Gandhinagar Railway station in Gujarat was the first station to undergo modernization in 2021. Lateron, in the same year, Rani Kamlapati Railway Station (formerly known as Habibganj) was the first railway station on Indian Railways being redeveloped. In 2022, Union Cabinet approved redevelopment of 3 major railway stations- New Delhi Railway Station, Ahmedabad Railway Station and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) Mumbai, with an approximate total investment of nearly ?10,000 Cr.
The Centre has now drawn out an ambitious plan for transforming more than 1300 railway stations in the country as ‘Amrit Bharat Stations’. The mission got a fillip, when in August 2023, Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the redevelopment of 508 Railway Stations across the country.
Being redeveloped at a cost of more than Rs 24,470 crores, these 508 stations are spread across 27 states and union territories, including 55 each in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, 49 in Bihar, 44 in Maharashtra, 37 in West Bengal, 34 in Madhya Pradesh, 32 in Assam, 25 in Odisha, 22 in Punjab, 21 each in Gujarat and Telangana, 20 in Jharkhand, 18 each in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, 15 in Haryana, 13 in Karnataka among others.
Results that are being seen today, are an outcome of series of efforts and management initiatives being undertaken especially since 2019.Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw has gone on record saying “Our Prime Minister has a huge vision for station redevelopment. When we went with the original designs, he didn’t approve the designs.
He told us to design the stations for 50 years ahead. So, we went back to the drawing board, redesigned the entire thing, and then started the construction. So, today we are doing the world’s largest station redevelopment program. 1309 stations are getting redeveloped”.
Development/redevelopment of Railway Stations is complex in nature, involving safety of passengers & trains and requires various statutory clearances such as fire clearance, heritage, tree cutting, airport clearance etc.
The progress also gets affected due to brown field related challenges such as shifting of utilities, infringements, operation of trains without hindering passenger movement, restrictions due to works carried out in close proximity of high voltage power lines etc. Wide spread consultations with Urban/Local Bodies and other stakeholders, experts, officers are being done for clearances required from concerned authorities for station development work.
Modernisation of over 1300 Railway Stations is a colossal task and an all-inclusive thorough process has gone behind scientific redevelopment of these stations with speed and scale.
The designing has been done in a holistic manner with discussions at the various levels before issuing tenders. Moreover, a standard tender document was curated and shared with all so as to ensure completion of work in a time bound manner.
Indian Railways merged the Indian Railway Stations Development Corporation for optimization of redevelopment work. Various top domain experts, Architects and piling agencies were empaneled for suitable use by all divisions and zonal offices.
Creation of Gatishakti Directorates in the Zones and Headquarter, besides training of over 9000 personnel for this, has also facilitated in streamlining and speeding up of the processes.
The scheme involves preparation of Master Plans and their implementation in phases to improve the amenities at the stations like improvement of station access, circulating areas, waiting halls, toilets, lift/escalators as necessary, cleanliness, free WiFi, kiosks for local products through schemes like ‘One Station One Product”, better passenger information systems, executive lounges, nominated spaces for business meetings, landscaping etc. keeping in view the necessity at each such station.
The scheme also envisages improvement of building, integrating the station with both sides of the city, multimodal integration, amenities for Divyangjans, sustainable and environment friendly solutions.
Every station will have a spacious roof plaza with all passenger amenities at one place along with spaces for retail, cafeterias, recreational facilities. Master plan has been prepared for smooth movement of traffic, with adequate parking facilities and efforts would be there to ensure its integration with other modes of transportation like metro, bus etc.
Green Building Techniques will be used, with solar energy, water conservation/recycling and improved tree cover.
There will be segregation of arrival/departures, Clutter free platforms, improved surfaces, fully covered platforms.
Unprecedented transformation of Indian Railway Stations is going to make every Indian proud and every tourist marvel at the pace the change that has taken place.

(The writer is Ex-Director General, PIB / Chairman, Kalaclap Technologies, CEO Stagecrafts Pvt Limited).

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