In a bid to revamp and modernise Indian Railways infrastructure, Union Minister for Railways Suresh Prabhu on Wednesday launched the first phase of station redevelopment programme for 23 major stations across the country.
The 23 stations that will be redeveloped in the first phase include Chennai Central, Ranchi, Udaipur City, Indore, Yesvantpur, Bangalore Cantonment, Visakhapatnam, Howrah, Kamakhya, Faridabad, Jammu Tawi, Secunderabad, Vijayawada, Kozhikode and Bhopal.
As part of the programme, the Railways will take up 400 stations in 100 top cities for redevelopment into smart stations, equipped with self-ticketing system, escalators and better amenities for the passengers.
The entire project, that is being touted as the world's largest such programme, will use at least 2,200 acres of land and see investments worth Rs 1 lakh crore.
The first phase will utilise a budget of Rs 6000-9000 crore, and the tenders will awarded through free bidding.
The Railways will provide 140 acres of encroachment-free land for the development of these stations under a public-private partnership (PPP) model.
“Railways have certain advantages out of which one is holding of land on a large-scale and that stations are a place where lots of people wait to board a train and thus Railway Stations can be developed into an iconic property,” Prabhu said.
He said that smart stations are a prerequisite of a smart city and upon completion a total of 16 million passengers will be able enjoy the facilities at these stations.
Other amenities at the redeveloped stations will include digital signage, executive lounges, luggage screening machines, walkways, holding areas for passengers, grand and distinctive roofing and flooring, and free and paid Wi-Fi, among others.
Indian Railways is considered as the cheap mode of transport in comparison of other means like road and airways. Indian Railways is also the world's fourth largest rail network after US, Russia and China.
Besides contributing significantly to the nation's growth story, Indian Railways provide employment to thousands of people. It is the largest employer in the country.