New Delhi: Indian Railways has sought operational autonomy from the cabinet to undertake the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s ambitious 1 trillion station redevelopment plan.

Indian Railways has asked the cabinet to allow the national carrier to decide the business model for station redevelopment. This includes selling railway land to pay loans, leasing it out for more than 99 years for commercial development, including real-estate development, and forming joint ventures with urban development agencies such as the Delhi Development Authority to undertake station redevelopment projects.

The Indian Railway Station Development Corporation (IRSDC), the nodal agency to undertake station redevelopment, will not seek any money from the Indian Railways to undertake the projects and funds would be raised from the market, according to the cabinet note.

A senior railway ministry official confirmed the development on condition of anonymity and said IRSDC would be the implementation agency for all the projects, but would have to get the approval of the ministry before adopting the business model for a station.

The Railways has come up with several provisions to attract developers for the project. These include offering a basket of stations for development, offering multiple sub-leases and allowing residential development on railway property.

For the last six months the Railways has been amending its cabinet note on station redevelopment following several objections and concerns raised by various ministries including those of finance and law.

“This is the final note as now both the law ministry and the attorney general of India are on board. We are hopeful that the cabinet note will be approved soon," said another railway official aware of the cabinet note, who did not want to be identified.

The number of stations to be undertaken in Phase I will depend on when the cabinet approves the note, said the official.

“If it’s approved before September, we can take around 60 stations, but if it gets deferred to next year for consideration, the number of stations will come down," he said.

The redevelopment of the country’s first railway station under an earlier policy is already under way.

Habibganj station in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, is being developed into a swanky commercial hub with shops, offices and hotels. The project, which was launched in 2016, is likely to be completed by December.

The operation and maintenance responsibilities for the station have been given to Bhopal-based Bansal Group for eight years, along with four land parcels on a 45-year lease. The group is investing 100 crore to overhaul the station opened in 1979.

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