Rail budget: 400 stations will foster large transit-oriented development

  • Anuj Puri
  • Updated: Feb 27, 2016 20:14 IST
The sheer number of land parcels held by Indian railways across the country makes this entity an important stakeholder in transit-oriented development. (Photo by Mujeeb Faruqui/ Hindustan Times) (Hindustan Times)

Railway minister Suresh Prabhu’s announcement on Thursday on redevelopment of 400 stations through the private-public partnership (PPP) model is a very progressive and welcome move. This project will foster a plethora of large transit-oriented developments (TOD) across the country, possibly resulting in the largest TOD undertaking in the world and thereby leading to higher transit ridership. This way, Indian railways can efficiently monetise their land parcels, particularly in cities with higher densities, by commercially exploiting existing railway stations through sale of space rights over them. It will be great to see the arrival of more developments of the kind we see getting developed in Seawoods in Navi Mumbai and Karkardooma Metro station in Delhi.

The sheer number of land parcels held by Indian railways across the country makes this entity an important stakeholder in TOD. Given that Indian cities will see more migration from the rural areas, urban infrastructure will become a key area of focus for the government. In last year’s railway budget, it was announced that monetisation of assets instead of selling them will be the new approach. Mumbai has always been challenged by its need to transport millions from the suburbs to south Mumbai’s business districts, thanks to its geography and linear, northward expansion. Three suburban railway lines and two express highways operate in full capacity during peak hour.

The case is similar in other metros. Bengaluru sees a lot of traffic congestion during the peak hours.

Delhi-NCR stands out for its pollution levels constantly hovering around dangerous levels, even though it has better metro connectivity than most other large Indian cities. There is a lot of scope for TOD in all these cities. Tier II cities are not far behind, and could end up congested like the Tier I cities, given the rapid pace of their expansion.

Transit-oriented ­development In India

Delhi was the first Indian city to move towards a TOD concept. TOD is also a priority area for Mumbai, and was mentioned in its new development plan (DP) 2034 (currently in a draft format and undergoing several revisions). Vashi, CBD Belapur were the first TOD projects in Navi Mumbai, with Seawoods following suit.

Haryana has recently introduced TOD, which will benefit cities like Gurgaon. While some progress has been made, it is still too little and comes almost too late.

What is transit-oriented development?

TOD is a mixed-use residential and commercial area designed to maximise access to public transport, and often incorporates features to encourage transit ridership. A TOD neighbourhood typically has a centre with a transit (train/ metro) station or stop and residential as well as commercial development around it. TOD interventions aim to significantly shift the mode share away from private motorised vehicles to public transport

Many cities around the world, such as San Francisco, Vancouver, Hong Kong, Melbourne, Paris, etc., have developed and continue to write policies and strategic plans aimed at reducing automobile dependency and increasing the use of public transit. TOD as a planning tool is new to Indian cities, and quality mass rapid transit systems are also relatively recent here

The author is chairman and country head, JLL India.

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