Habibganj becomes the First Railway Station on Indian Railways to be Fully Managed by a Private Party

Sanjeev Kumar Lohia, CEO of Indian Railways Stations Development Corp. declares Habibganj as their First Railway Station on IR to be fully managed by Private Player

BHOPAL: Sanjeev Kumar Lohia, CEO of IRSDC announced that the Station management of Habibganj Railway Station has been fully taken over by M/s. Bansal Pathways Ltd – an SPV of Bansal Construction Works and Prakash Asphalting and Toll Highways (India).  The firm has taken over the management of the station as per station facility management agreement w.e.f. 1st March, 2017 – thus making Habibganj emerging as the first Railway station on Indian Railways to be managed by a private party, and marking it as the historic day for station redevelopment programme of Indian Railways.

After financial closure and novation of contracts, appointed date for Habibganj station development project achieved on 1/3/17 with both sides meeting the conditions precedent and developer M/s Bansal Pathways Ltd fully gearing up to take over the the management of station as per station facility management agreement w.e.f 1/3/17.  Sanjeev Lohia said that this milestone would not have been achieved by the organisation unless the great contribution and support rendered by the DRM Bhopal, ADRM Bhopal and all the Branch Officers of Bhopal division, WCR HQ officers, Railway Board, team IRSDC, Developer, Lending Banks and consultants.

This important milestone strikingly coincides with the Indian Railways eyeing fancy makeover for Habibganj Railway Station in Bhopal with a a huge make over, with a lot of station improvement programmes, erection of glass dome-like structure serving as the entrance for passengers and various passenger amenities to contribute for Smart City Bhopal. The programme envisages for large scale developments – once inside, passengers can avail the services of cafeterias and food plazas and wait for trains at a lounge. There would also be holding areas for passengers at every platform and an exit underpass for passengers de-boarding trains to ease congestion on platforms. Habibganj would also offer travellers the first experience of the Indian Railways’ touted station redevelopment programme. The transporter had selected 400 stations for redevelopment, at an expenditure of Rs 96,000 crore by private developers. From the list, a detailed study was conducted for 50 stations with 28 of them being priotitised.

However, core operations such as signalling, track maintenance and running of trains will be undertaken by the railways.

The plan for station redevelopment extends beyond 400 stations though. “Another 300 stations will be redeveloped as we plan to partner with the Smart Cities Mission, Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation, and Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana,” says Rajiv Chaudhry, adviser-station redevelopment, Railway Board.

In July 2016, the Comptroller and Auditor General had said the railways’ station modernisation plan was progressing at a slow pace, pulling up the transporter for “improper and inadequate maintenance of passenger amenities”. Things have got moving since then, what with work at the Habibganj station expected to start soon and another 23 stations likely to be put up for bids. Habibganj station will be redeveloped by M/s Bansal Pathways Habibganj, an SPV of Bansal Construction Works and Prakash Asphalting and Toll Highways (India). The estimated cost of station redevelopment is Rs.100 crore and that of commercial redevelopment around Rs.350 crore.

Under the new model, the railways will monetise surplus railway land —which could be in the vicinity of the station or elsewhere in the city—by leasing it out for 45 years to developers who in turn will redevelop stations. The developer would earn revenue from the commerical establishments on the land, as also non-fare revenue streams at the station such as publicity and parkings. The developer would maintain the station for 15 years, after which the maintenance contract would come up for rebidding. Core operations at the station like track maintenance and train running would continue to be handled by the transporter.

To return to Habibganj station, it would have more to offer to travellers besides its refurbished interiors; outside, on its western side, would lie commercial establishments, a bus terminal, office lobbies and service apartments, while the eastern side would have hospitals, hotels, convention centre, and spas. That might change the way passengers visualise train travel, once it is functional in three years’ time.

According to the official quoted above, the total redevelopment work will take around two years. The official added that the Habibganj project is relatively easier to be executed compared with others in the pipeline given it witnesses around 25,500 passengers daily which is expected to go up to approximately 80,700. “There are few trains that stop here and given that the construction will happen while operations are on, it is a simpler project,” said the official. The stations which will be put up for tender through the Swiss Challenge method include Pune, Howrah, Kanpur Central, Chennai Central and Bandra Terminus, among others.