In a first, Railways to levy "user-charge" to redevelop stations
To provide passengers with better facilities, the Indian Railways will, for the first time since its inception, charge a nominal user charge from them for crowded stations and the redeveloped ones, Railway Board Chairman VK Yadav said on Thursday. As per the plans, this charge will be applicable to 700-1,050 stations. Yadav said a notification regarding the same will be issued. Here's more.
Yadav explained that an airport-esque user fee won't just be applicable to redeveloped stations, but also on major stations, on the basis of footfall projection. "There are 7,000 stations. With the expansion of our rail network, we will have to expand and develop more stations. The fee will be applicable only in 10-15% stations," Yadav added. The charge will be included in the journey fare.
Saying that extra charge won't pinch travelers, Yadav added, "When the redevelopment of the stations gets completed, the money will go to the concessionaires. Till then that money will go to the Railways for improving facilities across stations."
Another official, privy to the government's intentions, told LiveMint that besides generating revenue and providing better facilities to passengers, this model will regulate non-passenger footfall at stations. Meanwhile, NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant said the goal is to put 50 stations for redevelopment by 2021-end. He assured that passengers won't be burdened, and Railways will notify the passengers about the affordable charges.
Kant said the government wants Railways to drive "India's growth story," and he cited examples of Japan and South Korea, where Railways played an important role in the economy. "We are confident that going forward, the Railways will contribute 1-2% toward India's growth," he told in a virtual press meet. He also hoped for an eventual scenario where passenger and freight fares will decrease.
"We are looking at a close to Rs. 1 trillion investment. RFQ (request for qualification) for 10 stations has been floated. Eight stations (including Gwalior and Surat) received overwhelming participation (from private investors)," Kant went on.
In fact, last October, Kant had slammed the Railways for not participating in the Centre's redevelopment plans earnestly and recommended a high-powered committee to guide 50 stations' redevelopment on priority. It was in 2016 that the scheme to completely revamp 400 stations was rolled out. The development of land and air space, in and around stations, was to be leveraged to meet redevelopment costs.
Railways' announcement comes amid buzz that private entities might operate some trains in India. When asked about this, Kant replied, "The focus is Make in India. Even the global companies that participate in this will have to follow the 'Make in India' norms by DPIIT."