BMC’s high FSI Development Plan raises Railway’s hopes

मुंबई Mumbai: The new 20-year Development Plan (DP) proposed by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) – from 2014 to 2034 – has raised hopes among railway officials in the city that it might breathe life into the comatose plans for the commercial development of railway land.

“The talk of a Floor Space Index of 8 for areas near railway stations would be a huge game-changer, if it also includes the railway station itself. So far, we do not know if this involves the station area itself,” said a top-level railway official.

The rate of FSI has been a bone of contention among railways and the state government for several years now, with the state- especially the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) – of the view that large-scale redevelopment of railway stations, thanks to higher FSI, might result in a mismatch between the infrastructure and the facilities available.

“This was one of the issues that used to be raised when the Churchgate-Virar elevated corridor was being discussed. An example bandied about was Andheri station as a ten-storey commercial complex. Does the station have the roads to cater to the number of public transport vehicles and cars that will come in as part of the commercial complex? It would be an urban nightmare,” said a railway official.

The ambitious plans to redevelop railway land in the city have come a cropper, mainly by the lack of coordination between the state and the railways, and also because of the railway’s internal rules on the period of lease and nature of development.

Last August, the Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC) had written to the railway ministry asking that the lease of railway land be extended from the current limit of 45 years to at least 80 years to attract real-estate firms. The letter also wanted the land to be leased out for residential complexes, something currently not allowed for railway land in Mumbai.

The letter was written for the 43,000 square metre railway plot in Bandra (East), which has found no takers despite the Rail Land Development Authority (RLDA) putting it up for a 45- year lease in May last year.

A plan to construct a two-level commercial complex, with the ground parking on a 8,900 square metre railway plot in Thane (East), has also got stuck because of the state and railways unable to decide on its FSI requirements.

“If the new DP is well-rounded and manages to earmark roads and other infrastructure to cater to redevelopment of land or stations to FSI levels of 8, then there is a lot to cheer for the railways. The biggest revenue-churner for the railways over the next two decades in Mumbai would possibly be coming from land development rather than fares,” said the official.