Indian Railways has been the country’s national transporter with millions of people traveling in it every year. It is fair to say that it is India’s lifeline when it comes to transportation.
Over the years, the national transporter has expanded its network, upgraded the facilities, accommodated more modern engines, and all for the convenience of passengers. We have seen the modernization of Indian Railways with the inclusion of fast trains, redevelopment of railway stations, online ticketing systems, and more.
Even amid the COVID-19 crisis, Indian Railways has been striving to make things better for passengers, and at the same time ensuring timely supply of essentials throughout the country. The national transporter took advantage of the reduction of passenger services to complete pending repair work. Additionally, also improve the safety infrastructure such as creating and installing contactless machines, regular sanitization of trains as well as railway station premises, luggage disinfecting machines, thermal scanners, and more.
As a result of the constant advancement of facilities, Railways have increased the prices of the tickets. Recently, Pune platform ticket prices were increased from Rs 3 to Rs 50. The Railways said the multiple passenger safety measures being taken due to the COVID-19 outbreak were one of the reasons for this fare hike. It is commendable that in such a short time, the national transporter has installed foot-operated handwashing kiosks, linen, and blanket dispensing machines among others.
The Railways is using modern technology such as Artificial Intelligence to build robots that can minimize human contact amid the pandemic. The national transporter has built a well-equipped humanoid ‘Captain Arjun’ which is being seen multitasking at Mumbai Central station. This robot is equipped with- Sensor-based sanitizer and mask dispenser, floor sanitizer and can do the thermal screening of passengers. Passengers were amazed to see this new development at the station. All this is being done to provide a safer environment for all train travelers. Thus, the fare hike at several stations is hardly a surprise.
Additionally, the Indian Railways is simultaneously working towards improving the infrastructure at railway stations. Multiple redevelopment projects are in the planning stage to transform the stations into modern, world-class transportation hubs. New Delhi railway station, Habibganj station, Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) are just a few examples of the stations that are undergoing massive redevelopment.
The New Delhi railway station is the largest and one of the busiest stations in the country that handles nearly 4.5 lakh passengers every day. The Rail Land Development Authority will redevelop the station along with support from private players. The plan is to create a different structure and include airport-like facilities by integrating commercial, retail, and hospitality services. Currently, the station manages about 400 trains per day which are expected to increase after the renovation. The plan to redo the station is also to increase the operational efficiencies, among other things. Thus, post the renovation ticket fares are likely to be hiked.
Similarly, Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) will also be renovated on the lines of an airport. The CSMT station is the headquarters of the Central Railway zone and is one of the busiest stations in terms of traffic. The building of this station is a UNESCO world heritage site and has immense historical value, and the redevelopment will take place without disturbing the same. The ambitious renovation plan has been delegated to the Indian Railways Station Development Corporation (IRSDC) which will ensure that the station undergoes a makeover to match the global standards. The CSMT station, like many other stations, is being renovated under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model. The transformation will include separate entry and exit points at the station, wider circulating area, dedicated concourse area, retail shops, food and beverage outlets, environmentally-friendly ambiance, facilities for differently-abled passengers, state of the art passenger information systems, lifts, escalators, and more. The plan is to integrate the station with other modes of transport such as the metro, and inter-state buses.
Post the renovation, Indian Railways is likely to increase the train ticket fare for passengers. Providing facilities and integration of modern technology will improve the travel experience for the passengers, and the increased ticket fare will help in the maintenance of these stations.
From cleaning, repair of machines, safety, security, these railway stations will be like any other world-class station. The Indian Railways Station Development Corporation (IRSDC) has already signaled an increase in the ticket prices post the completion of the redevelopment plan.
Earlier, the Indian Railways had confirmed that private players who will redevelop these stations would levy airport-like fees which will be included in ticket fares, on passengers for these newly done stations. And the charges will depend on footfall at these stations. However, IRSDC said that costs cannot remain fixed, and will be finalized as per market realities. User charges are a massive part of the revenue and will be decided and agreed upon by the Ministry. These will be less compared to those at the airport given the diversity of passenger profile in the trains.
The Indian government has the plan to redevelop 50 stations across the country entailing an investment of nearly Rs 50,000 crore in 2020-21.
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2014 The Global Indian New Network (TGINN)