Private sector will have a role in Railway stations’ facelift: PM

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Rail link to Katra inaugurated

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has hinted at a larger role for private sector in the forthcoming railway budget, which is slated for July 8. Modi said Railway stations will be modernised possibly through private investment.

“Railway stations of metro cities and key cities such as Jammu and Kashmir need to be modernised.

“This can be done…This can also become an economically viable project. The policy will be such that… private party will be ready to invest,” he said, during the inauguration of rail link to Katra, the base of Vaishno Devi shrine. He also added that this was based on detailed discussions.

In the UPA regime, modernisation plans of railway stations such as New Delhi through private investment had to be shelved because of the number of clearances involved from multiple agencies and concerns of private investors.

With the Railways not generating enough surplus for additional investment, it will have to look at commercial investment from the private sector – domestic or foreign. But, investors will come in only when they see assured returns, which further require tweaking of existing policies.

Luring investment

Railway Minister DV Sadananda Gowda has already said that current policies will have to be tweaked to attract investment.

“To modernise stations through private investment, the Railways has to allow commercial utilisation of the station and land parcels around the stations.

“All of this would require State Governments’ permission to increase the floor space index, change land-use,” said an official.

This is because historically, land has been allotted to the Railways for its own operational and core activities.

That includes railway stations, tracks, hospitals, school for the use of Railways, among others.

States’ participation

The Prime Minister also added that the development of Railways can happen through the partnership of State and Union Governments.

And though Modi said that railway stations should not be see on par with airports, it remains to be seen whether the BJP-led NDA Government can revamp railway stations the way the UPA Government did to some airports.

(This article was published on July 4, 2014)
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