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BW Businessworld

‘Every Redeveloped Station has Unique Characteristics, Complexities and Scale’

Spearheading it is S.K. Lohia, MD & CEO, IRSDC who shares with Ashish Sinha of BW Businessworld an overview of the projects that have been completed, or are nearing completion and the overall vision of this mega project.

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The Indian Railway Stations Development Corporation (IRSDC) is a special purpose vehicle and a joint venture company of Rail Land Development Authority (RLDA), RITES and Ircon International. IRSDC has the authority to develop stations for the mandated purposes without requiring approvals from local authorities. Spearheading it is S.K. Lohia, MD & CEO, IRSDC who shares with Ashish Sinha of BW Businessworld an overview of the projects that have been completed, or are nearing completion and the overall vision of this mega project.


What are the stations where work has been completed or is nearing completion?

Gujarat’s Gandhinagar Capital Railway Station, symbolising the new face of Indian Railways, was recently dedicated to the nation by the Prime Minister. The station has several firsts to its credit, including a five-star hotel over live railway tracks and a one-of-its-kind columnfree platform roof with the largest span in Indian Railways. It is a unique, column-free, sleek, and economical space frame of 99 metres (105 m curvilinear) span over the platform (longest such span in Indian Railways comprising 120 kg/sqm steel only) with all-weather proof aluminium sheeting. Another station nearing completion is Habibganj Railway Station, Bhopal. It is being redeveloped by IRSDC along with Bansal Group’s Bansal Pathways Habibganj under a public-private partnership (PPP) model. The redevelopment work is modelled on the lines of Germany’s Heidelberg Railway Station with facilities at par with international standards. The redeveloped Habibganj Railway Station is the first in India to get a 5 GEM rating in GEM Sustainability Certification for Green, Sustainable Design and Eco-friendly Project by ASSOCHAM.

Which station redevelopment took the shortest time to complete?

IRSDC is committed to delivering projects within the scheduled time. The redevelopment of Gandhinagar and Habibganj stations has been done delivered despite the constraints posed by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the challenges of being the first such truly brownfield redevelopment projects of Indian Railways. However, every redeveloped station has unique characteristics, complexities and scale. Hence, it would not be appropriate to compare the time taken for the redevelopment of each station.

Give us an idea of the redevelopment cost.

The Gandhinagar Railway Station project along with a five-star hotel has been redeveloped as a brownfield project under an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) agreement signed in April 2017 at an approximate cost of Rs 799.30 crore. The station has a built-up area of 75,201 sq metres, of which the station area comprises 19,551 sq metres, the hotel area is 48,447 sq metres, and the auxiliary area is 7,203 sq metres. The total cost of the station upgradation is Rs 71.50 crore. The total redeveopment cost of Habibganj Railway Station is Rs 400 crore, out of which Rs 100 crore has been spent on station redevelopment while the remaining on commercial development. The work on Bijwasan Railway Station, New Delhi, is underway, and the approximate cost of this project is Rs 270 crore. The redevelopment cost of the iconic CSMT Station, Mumbai, is pegged at Rs 1,642 crore.

What is the scale of the Station Redevelopment Project?

The Station Redevelopment Project is an intrinsic component of the Smart Cities Project to redefine the trajectory of urban development and spur economic activities. As part of this agenda, work on the redevelopment of 125 stations is underway. Out of these, IRSDC is working on 63 stations and RLDA on 60 stations. As per current estimates, the investment needed for the redevelopment of 125 stations along with real estate development is about Rs 50,000 crore.

How many stations will be getting completed by December 31, 2021? How many will be completed by March 31, 2022?
The work at Bijwasan (Delhi) by IRSDC and Gomtinagar (Lucknow), Ayodhya, Delhi Safdarjung and Ajni (Nagpur) stations is being undertaken by Railways and other agencies. The redevelopment of the iconic Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) is one of the flagship projects of IRSDC. Nine bidders have been shortlisted in the RFQ (request for qualification) process, and IRSDC will soon float an RFP (request for proposal). An EPC contract has been awarded for the redevelopment of Bijwasan Railway Station, New Delhi, and the work is in progress. RFQ for the redevelopment of Udaipur, Surat and Udhna stations has been recently floated. Apart from these, IRSDC will also shortly invite RFP for the redevelopment of Gwalior, Nagpur, Amritsar, Sabarmati railway stations. We are working on multiple projects in coordination with the Railway Board. RFQs for the redevelopment of Andheri, Jaipur, Gandhinagar (Jaipur), Secunderabad, Hyderabad, Kanpur, Asansol, Ranchi railway stations and many others are also in advanced stages of approval. All bids floated to date have received an encouraging response from developers. IRSDC has recently received in-principle approval for entrustment of 90 stations for integrated facility management to be developed under the PPP model in addition to the 63 stations.

What are the key challenges in station redevelopment, and how have they been tackled?
The foremost challenge was to devise standard benchmarks and implement best practices in station redevelopment as there was no precedent of such a model in India and everything had to be done from first principles. The foremost challenge faced during the redevelopment of stations was carrying out construction works in operational railway stations where we had to routinely work under power/traffic block i.e. where trains have to be stopped for a certain duration and planned work has to be completed in that duration only to avoid disruption of normal train services.
We had to ensure that the redevelopment is done without significantly disturbing the traffic/movement of trains. So, redevelopment work of a railway station is akin to conducting a beating heart surgery on an athlete while he is running the marathon. For instance, Gandhinagar Capital Railway Station is the first to host a five-star hotel over live railway tracks. It is a civil engineering feat that was executed following a well-thought-out strategy. Vibration and acoustics studies were conducted through a reputed international consultant to ensure the passengers in the concourse and guests in the hotel do not experience discomfort during the passage of trains.
A 937-metre-long elevated bridge was constructed to reach the hotel at 22 metres from ground level. The foundation of the building can withstand a load of 12,000 tonnes as it uses columns of sizes 2.5m x 2.5m for load transfer, 1,200 mm diameter piles up to 35 metre depth due to limited space on platforms. It marks a departure from conventional building construction techniques. The load is so high that the pile cap was not possible, and all 78 piles on Platform 1 and the 82 piles on Platforms 2 & 3 were combined in a single raft, 2,500 mm deep. Pile load tests have been carried out with superimposed loading of 3,000 tonnes. The CAPWAP (Case Pile Wave Analysis Program) analysis was also conducted. The Habibganj project was a truly brownfield project. The key challenges encountered during the Habibganj Railway Station redevelopment were related to the novation of existing contracts, design of air concourse, cover over the platform, subway, deep excavation at running platforms in the vicinity of live signal cables (107 pairs), scheme finalisation of air concourse construction, etc. besides execution of significant work of concourse/subways during traffic block.

Please elaborate on the fund-raising exercise.
As per the directions of the Ministry of Railways, a few of the redevelopment projects are being undertaken in the PPP mode, and IRSDC is getting a huge response from private entities for ongoing and upcoming projects. We are also planning to introduce a station development fee at these stations as they are key railway assets, and real estate alone cannot bear their maintenance costs. This station development fee will form a component of ticket costs to ensure that footfall is not adversely affected at these stations.

Have you set up city-specific SPVs?
The recently inaugurated Gandhinagar Capital Railway Station was redeveloped by a joint venture SPV — Gandhinagar Railway and Urban Development (GARUD). It was formed with the equity contribution of the Government of Gujarat and IRSDC in the ratio of 74:26. The project was conceptualised in 2016, with the Gujarat International Finance Tech (GIFT) city in focus, with a view that it will emerge as a key international finance centre on the lines of other worldfamous cities. Similarly, redevelopment of Surat Railway Station will be carried out by IRSDC on behalf of a SPV, Surat Integrated Transportation Development Corporation (SITCO), incorporated under the Companies Act, 2013 as a joint venture amongst IRSDC, GSRTC and SMC, with the approval of the Ministry of Railways and Government of Gujarat. As we take up more railway station redevelopment projects, the decision to form city-specific SPVs will be taken based on the project requirements.