INDIA: Faced with rapidly-increasing traffic, Indian Railways needs to augment or rebuild many of its 7 000 stations to accommodate the growing business. PPP financing and commercial development are envisaged to fund the reconstruction of 26 of the country’s busiest stations, reports Raghu Dayal.

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On October 27 India’s Ministry of Railways officially issued a Request for Qualification for the redevelopment of New Delhi station through a public-private partnership. Currently handling up to 350 000 passengers/day, the station is to be rebuilt to accommodate twice that number under a design-build-finance-operate and transfer concession to be awarded by international tendering.

As well as the station itself, the project includes offices, parking, public spaces and commercial development occupying a total area of around 86 ha. Indian Railways was due to hold a pre-application conference for potential bidders on November 20, with final applications to be submitted by December 10.

New Delhi is the first of 26 major stations around India which IR has selected for redevelopment to 'world-class’ standards. According to IR, the stations will emerge 'as graceful gateways and iconic centres redefining the urban landscape of their respective cities’.

Under discussion for the past two years, the station redevelopment programme has attracted a great deal of interest from public and investors alike, as reflected in an overwhelming response to an initial prequalification for the New Delhi project. Elsewhere, Chinese Railways has expressed interest in the redevelopments at Bangalore and Bhubaneshwar, and Deutsche Bahn in the projects in Jaipur and Chandigarh.

India’s urban population is forecast to rise from 28% of the country’s inhabitants to around 40% by the middle of this century. Coupled with rising disposable incomes, urbanisation has generated growth in commuting as well as more inter-city travel. Despite constraints on supply, rail travel has been increasing by more than 7% a year over the past four years. With much of this traffic focused on the major cities, the urban station infrastructure has been severely strained.

While all the airports in the country put together handle about 100 million passengers a year, each of the stations in the metropolitan areas such as Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai is handling much larger numbers.

Most of the major city stations were built decades ago, and some are largely unaltered from the 19th century. Whilst unique architectural marvels, some of these majestic stations are no longer adequate to meet current demands, with little or no access control and lack of space in the arrival and departure concourses and circulating areas. Some areas are used as access to railway offices, and elsewhere the lack of space is exacerbated by a surfeit of vendor stalls and kiosks. Waiting passengers with bags and baskets add to the chaos, while poor maintenance and lack of hygiene means that the magnificent stations have ended up as a poor introduction to the cities they serve.

In many respects, India’s railway stations are a veritable microcosm of the country’s large and diverse population. But they are often located in prime central districts, with an enviable potential for property development that may be leveraged to generate the huge funding required to redevelop them.

Altogether, IR has more than 50 stations with potential for redevelopment, and the first 26 have already been identified (Table I). Of these, IR has selected New Delhi, Patna, Secunderabad and Mumbai CST for bidding during the current financial year.

Design consultants selected

IR called global bids in 2007 for firms to support the pioneering project at New Delhi, selecting Terry Farrell & Partners as architect and technical consultant, Grant Thornton as financial consultant and Cameron McKenna LLP as legal adviser. The architect has already prepared a Master Plan, Feasibility Report and Architectural Concept Plan for the station, and the prequalification process is intended to shortlist five or six consortia who will be invited to submit financial bids this year.

At the same time IR is seeking approval of the plans by the local authorities, finalising proposals for relocating railway facilities and shops on the outer edges of the station area and the development of additional capacity at other stations in Delhi area to accommodate traffic diverted from the main station during the five to six-year construction phase.

Meanwhile Aedas has started work on the design of the new station in Patna, whilst architects are being selected for Secunderabad and Mumbai CST. IR hopes to launch the bidding process for these three stations in 2009.

Looking at some impressive recent station construction projects in different countries, such as Beijing South, Berlin Hauptbahnhof or at the rebuilding of London St Pancras or Melbourne’s Southern Cross (Spencer Street), IR estimates that each large station could cost in the range of Rs50bn to Rs80bn. By comparison, the 11th five-year plan envisages total expenditure on the railways of Rs2 510bn, of which Rs1 000bn must be raised from outside sources.

The station schemes are considered ideal for attracting external investment, by exploiting the potential for leveraging associated land and air space for commercial activity. In addition, they offer scope to transfer design, project management, construction and asset maintenance skills from the private sector.

To enable a successful PPP, the railway operating assets (track, signalling, electrification) need to be segregated from those that would be maintained by the concessionaire (passenger concourses, parking, station buildings) and so on. There would also have to be a complete revision of some operating practices; for example handling parcels at the platform ends without interfering with passenger flows around the station, or relocating railway offices away from the platform frontage. Stations that are currently open and porous would be sealed off for access control and ticketing, with provision for security screening of luggage.

Free facilities like waiting rooms would have to be differentiated from paid-for services such as air-conditioned lounges, cloakrooms, or parking. A clear method for determining, regulating and reviewing any service charges would be spelled out, with the requirements laid down in detail in the concession agreement.

Segregated flows

Originally a wayside halt on one of the lines radiating from the original junction at Delhi Main, New Delhi station has grown organically to become one of India’s busiest stations in little more than 50 years. The site is constrained to the east and northeast by the Mughal walled city dating from the 17th century and its extension to the northwest. Both of these areas are densely developed. To the south lies the New Delhi capital district laid out by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1911.

The existing station was completely rebuilt in the 1950s to relieve the pressure at Delhi Main. It has 16 platforms that vary in length, width and geometry, linked by three footbridges. Parcels, linen for sleeping cars and catering supplies are transferred to the platforms by hand carts, leading to conflicting flows as passengers and parcels try to reach the train from the same, relatively low, platforms. The parcel areas have poor security and are not efficiently organised. The station lacks a concourse and is generally overcrowded. Security is poor, and passengers can enter the station and wander across the tracks at will.

New Delhi station is currently used by around 250 000 passengers per day during the off-peak season. The new station is expected to accommodate twice that number safely and efficiently in a pleasant environment, with a design maximum of 700 000.

The station will be 400 m long by 250 m wide, with arrival, departure and commuter operations segregated vertically. Long-distance departures will be handled at first-floor level, above the ground level platforms. Long-distance arrivals and commuters will use the basement level, offering convenient access to the metro station across the road.

A grand entrance hall running the length of the station will be supplemented by waiting areas totalling 73 600 m2. There will be 18 parallel platforms of uniform width and layout, able to take 24 or 26-car trains. This should cater for projected growth well into the middle of the century. Standardisation of platform length and width will allow a modular approach to station design, simplifying construction. This modularity will be repeated in the roof design.

The main passenger flows will be segregated from static functions such as ticketing and reservations. Clearly marked entrances and exits on the platforms should reduce conflicts between boarding and alighting passengers and allow more space to be freed up at platform level for the train servicing functions. A separate link between the Paharganj and Ajmeri Gate sides will be provided for the general public, allowing all passengers to be security-screened at the station entrances. Access to the platforms will only be possible via the waiting rooms, which will require a valid ticket. IR is looking at the potential for a 'waiting room ticket’ which would give friends and family access to the waiting areas but not the platforms.

The western side of the development will be given over to commercial facilities, which will upgrade and revitalise the Paharganj/Sadar Bazaar area as well as generating revenue for the PPP concessionaire. The eastern side will have the railway offices and residential accommodation as well as the main station entrance. Ajmeri Gate will become a fully-integrated multi-modal transport interchange in the heart of the city, with connections to the metro, the airport rail link, buses and taxis.

Architectural expression

The Ajmeri Gate entrance hall will be an 'architecturally expressive’ entry to the departure area, and the expansive roof will have a grid of crystalline skylights admitting light to the concourse and waiting areas below. A 215 m long ticketing area is envisaged on the Ajmeri Gate side, with a smaller 90 m facility on the Paharganj side. Both will incorporate integrated ticketing and reservation facilities.

The main entrance hall is planned as a light-filled atrium running the entire length of the eastern façade. The curtain walling and supports are designed as a decorative motif, reflecting traditional architectural patterns or the traditional Indian motif of the lotus bud.

With almost all of the upper level required for ticketing, waiting areas and departures, there is no space for large voids in the concourse. Natural light will be brought down to the platforms via a series of 'perforations’ in the roof and concourse, arranged in a diagonal grid pattern redolent of the eyes on a peacock’s tail, that being the national bird of India.

The basement area will occupy the entire footprint of the station, with most of the excavation taking place as an open cut, requiring ground water pumping. The track slab will be carried on reinforced concrete beams supported on piled foundations.

The basement-level arrivals concourse will be 45 m wide. This will extend beyond the station area to provide a good connection into the adjacent urban developments as well as the transport interchange. Provision for parcels traffic, linen, and catering functions will be concentrated at the Delhi Main end of the station, with service lifts to the platforms. The main station car park will be at the Tilak Bridge end, but there will also be a three-storey car park on the Paharganj side.

Most of the station area and the adjacent yard tracks will be decked over to give a landscaped 'green lung’ in the heart of Delhi. This Green Park concept draws inspiration from some of the great urban parks, integrated with both Old Delhi and the Lutyens Bungalow zone. It is expected that the railway corridor will become one of the most desirable residential areas in the city.

Phased construction programme

Rebuilding a bustling railway station in a highly congested area with minimum disruption to normal train services is a daunting task. Given the scale of the reconstruction, IR expects that the rebuilding will take five or six years, and will be done in two main phases.

The first will cover the Paharganj side, including the upgrading or renewal of all utilities, which are inadequate for even the current level of operations. Short-term 'beautification’ measures are planned to provide a visible presence in time for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, to tie in with the interchange facilities currently being developed on the Ajmeri Gate side.

Meanwhile, the Delhi division of Northern Railway has drawn up a detailed plan for train handling during the construction period. During Phase 1A, when platforms 1 to 3 will be blocked, none of the 288 trains currently using the station each day will have to be revised. Phase 1B will also block platforms 4 to 7, requiring 84 trains to be cancelled and another 50 diverted to other outlying terminals.

Development of new passenger facilities at Anand Vihar, Bijwasan and Holambi Kalan is already being expedited. Some further capacity expansion works have been initiated at a cost of Rs730m which will allow some diverted trains to be handled at Sabzimandi, Tilak Bridge, Shakurbasti, Delhi Sarai, Nizamuddin, Ghaziabad and Tughlakabad.

Table I. Stations identified for redevelopment

  • Agra
  • Ahmedabad
  • Amritsar
  • Anand Vihar (Delhi)
  • Bangalore
  • Bhopal
  • Bhubaneshwar
  • Bijwasan (Delhi)
  • Chandigarh
  • Chennai
  • Gaya
  • Guwahati
  • Jaipur
  • Kanpur
  • Kolkata Howrah
  • Lucknow
  • Mathura
  • Mumbai CST
  • Nagpur
  • New Delhi
  • Patna
  • Pune
  • Secunderabad
  • Thiruvananthapuram
  • Tirupati
  • Varanasi