Train fares to soon include 'user charge' at select stations

railway station canteen
File Photo

New Delhi: The Indian Railways will soon start levying 'user fees' as part of train fares for the stations that have been redeveloped and those with high footfall in order to generate revenue to provide better facilities for passengers, Railway Board Chairman VK Yadav said Thursday.

Once it comes into effect, it will be for the first time that such charges are levied on rail passengers.

Yadav said the charges will be nominal and will be applicable in about 10-15 percent of the 7,000 railway stations across the country.

We are going to keep a very small amount for the user charge. We will issue a notification for the user charge for all stations including both those that are getting redeveloped and those that are not," the chairman said.

"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. It will be an affordable amount, but it is important to levy if we want to provide world-class facilities similar to airport development. We want to upgrade all our major railway stations, Yadav said.

He further said the Railways will not levy the charge across all the 7,000 stations but all major stations where the footfall of passengers will increase over the next five years. "It will be done in about 10-15% of all our stations where we expect the footfall to increase, he added.

The statement comes in the backdrop of concerns raised over a potential rise in the prices of ticket fares with private entities being allowed to run trains in the country.

"I believe that competency will ensure that eventually, the prices of both passenger and freight fares will decrease in due course," said Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant.

The Railways has plans to redevelop 50 railway stations and monetize its land. The redeveloped hubs will be called Railopolis', according to the Railways. It will lease the land out for 60 years for commercial purposes.

We want Railways to drive India's growth story. In countries like Japan and South Korea, the growth story was also driven by railway infrastructure. We are confident that going forward, the railways will contribute 1-2% towards India's growth, Kant said.

The policy think-tank Niti Aayog had earlier in October pulled up the Railways for delayed implementation of the Centre's plans for the redevelopment of stations.

Niti Aayog had recommended an empowered group of top bureaucrats to develop 50 stations on a priority basis. The scheme to redevelop stations was first announced in 2016 wherein 400 such stations were planned to be completely overhauled, the cost for which was to be met by leveraging commercial development of land and air space in and around the stations.

On the Railways' plans to allow private operators to run a certain number of trains in the country, Kant said, 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. This will bring in manufacturing capacity in India. When Alstom and Bombardier can manufacture metro trains in India then why can't trains be manufactured. Everything will be set up in India.

The Indian Railway Station Redevelopment Corporation Ltd (IRSDC) the implementing agency of the station redevelopment project earlier handed over two railway stations -- Habibganj in Madhya Pradesh and Gandhinagar in Gujarat -- to private parties for development under public-private partnership plans to complete both by December 2020.

While 94.05 per cent civil work has already been completed at the Gandhinagar railway station, the project at Habibganj is now 90 per cent complete.

Additionally, engineering, procurement, and construction contracts have been awarded and commercial tenders floated for the development of three stations Anand Vihar, Bijwasan, and Chandigarh.

Requests for qualification were invited in December 2019 for developing Amritsar, Nagpur, Gwalior, and Sabarmati stations, and 32 applications were received till June 26, 2020, out of which 29 were shortlisted.

The IRSDC has also taken up five stations for developing integrated facility management and 90 more are in the pipeline. The agency is now working on Mumbai's CST station and the New Delhi Railway Station in the Capital.

The modernisation of stations includes developing/re-developing the new/existing railway stations and upgrading passenger amenities by new constructions/renovations. It allows re-development of the station buildings, platform surfaces, circulating area to better standards so as to serve the need of the passengers.

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