Infrastructure Urban Transportation

Railway expansion plan stuck in court

Central railway station is bursting at its seams. The number of trains and passengers far exceeds the capacity of the building and also the railway lines.

Southern Railway has finalised an over Rs 600-crore expansion plan to build a separate terminal on the west side of the Moore Market Complex (MMC) and to realign the railway tracks which would prevent cross-movement of upcountry and suburban trains.
But now the project is mired in a legal tangle as the Indian Institute of Architects (IIA) have dragged the railways to court over its plan to redevelop railway stations across the country. The architects’ grouse is that the project size is such that only foreign firms would be able to bid for it.


A writ petition filed by R Ramraj, the then chairman of IIA Tamil Nadu Chapter, has also stated that no architect other than those registered with the Council of Architecture should be allowed to practise the profession in India.

Ramaraj said that Southern Railway is yet to file a counter to the case. The case has been referred to the chief justice who should allot it to a judge.
"We decided to challenge the redevelopment of stations because the eligibility criteria set by railways cannot be met by any of the architects in the country. The norms say that the architect should already have done a Rs 100-crore railway project and also should have received Rs 1 crore as fee. But, the railways has never planned such a huge project anywhere and hence Indian architects cannot even apply. And foreign architects are not eligible to work in India if they are not registered with the Council of Architects," said Ramaraj.

Senior railway officials said that the Rs 600-crore plan got stalled because it got linked with a central plan to upgrade all major railway destinations, thereby increasing its budget. This means that passengers will have to wait further before they could get to experience world class facilities at Chennai Central.

Southern Railway had planned to retain the heritage structure and build a new complex to the west side of the existing MMC to receive mainline trains and suburban trains from the Arakonam and Gudur sections.

"The basic idea behind the grand plan that will be implemented in three phases, is to eliminate the crossing of trains. Usually, trains from Gudur side and mainline trains cross just after Basin Bridge train care centre. So we are planning to split the suburban lines and bring them to the two ends of the proposed new station. The line from Gudur will be realigned and brought to the east end of the terminal, while the line from Arakonam will be brought to the west end. The mainline will run in between the two dedicated suburban tracks," said a senior railway official.
This will make the current MMC the hub for passenger movement while the existing heritage station will be retained. "It will be used to receive long distance trains. But, at a later date there is also a plan to bring in all trains from Gudur into the existing station," the official added.
Southern Railway chief public relations officer Neenu Ittyerah said that the expansion plan will be on hold till the case is resolved.

Original article here.