Rail Land Development Authority to be classified as local urban body

RLDA has 119 commercial sites for development, with 35 with a lease value of  ₹2,835 crore already awarded. (File Photo: Mint)
RLDA has 119 commercial sites for development, with 35 with a lease value of 2,835 crore already awarded. (File Photo: Mint)

Summary

  • The fresh push by the railways seeks nationwide acknowledgment of RLDA as a local urban body, facilitating seamless development of surplus railway land and aiding states with land development plans.

New Delhi: Indian Railways is seeking to expedite station redevelopment and land monetization by proposing that the Rail Land Development Authority (RLDA) be recognized as an urban local body, two persons aware of the development told Mint. This move, aimed at fast-tracking projects across India, involves collaboration with state governments and the Union ministry of housing and urban affairs (MoHUA).

Currently, RLDA, under the ministry of railways, develops vacant railway land for commercial use but faces delays due to mandatory consultations with various state and local authorities. In cities like Delhi and Mumbai, disagreements with local urban bodies over development plans have stalled projects.

Recognizing RLDA as an urban local body would grant it the flexibility to monetize railway land and improve public infrastructure more rapidly, said one of the persons cited above. 

RLDA has 119 commercial sites for development, of which 35 with a lease value of 2,835 crore have already been awarded. Bids for another 84 plots worth over 7,500 crore are expected in the next 18 months. This designation is anticipated to prevent delays in these projects.

“We have written to ministry of housing and urban affairs to recognize the RLDA as a local authority and ask states to give this status. Other state governments are also being pursued by RLDA to issue similar instruction," said a railway ministry official on condition of anonymity.

Questions sent to ministry of railways and RLDA remained unanswered till press time.

Prashant Thakur, regional director & head of research at Anarock Group, believes this move could streamline station redevelopment, offering RLDA more autonomy and reducing dependency on state and local bodies. However, it's important to balance rapid development with environmental and social considerations.

A 2019 MoHUA directive to treat RLDA on par with local authorities for land use and development projects saw limited impact, with only a few states recognizing RLDA's authority. The fresh push by the railways seeks nationwide acknowledgment of RLDA as a local urban body, facilitating seamless development of surplus railway land and aiding states with land development plans.

This step is also crucial for the National Monetization Pipeline, aimed at monetizing 6 trillion in government assets by FY25. The railways, with a target of over 1.5 trillion, have seen modest progress, primarily through rail land development and commercial development of land parcels. Station redevelopment, monetization of tracks on freight corridors, and running of private trains are yet to take off. The plan to have an Infrastructure Investment Trust in railways has not worked out either.

The status of RLDA as a local authority is expected to enhance its role in this monetization effort.

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