Enter the dragon: India may seek Chinas help for station makeover plan

Written by Rajat Arora | New Delhi | Updated: Apr 3 2014, 09:22am hrs
India's plans to upgrade a clutch of its railway stations to 'world-class' level may be bolstered by Chinese cooperation.

Although the contours of the joint venture between the two nations for the revamp are far from drawn, sources said Beijing's support has been sought by the railways in the re-development of brownfield stations.

In a recent visit to Beijing, railway board chairman Arunendra Kumar made the proposal to Chinese authorities We have asked the Chinese government for their support in the area of redevelopment of our brownfield stations. We have told them that the railways would be happy to have a joint venture with China for our stations project, for which we already have a separate station development authority, Kumar told FE.

Analysts, however, remained cautiously optimistic about the proposal, given the security angle that India-China economic ties often brings forth.

The Indian Railways Station Development Authority has already taken up the pilot project to develop five stations- -Chandigarh, Habibganj, Shivaji Nagar, Bijwasan and Anand Vihar-phase II on public-private partnership (PPP) mode. No private player, however, has come forward to invest in the station development plan despite the railway board holding several meetings with potential investors.

In FY14 budget also, the railways set target to raise Rs 1,000 crore as private investment for the redevelopment of stations, but that was not to be.

India already has MoUs with China for high-speed railways, heavy haulage of freight and world-class stations. Chinas example has been cited time and again as it has made a lot of progress in railways, especially in station modernisation and high-speed network. In a span of less than 10 years, China has built 9,000-km high-speed rail network. India can gain from Chinas experience, a railway ministry official said. Analysts said Chinese support could include technology and finance.

The proposal to China comes at the time when India is opening its door to foreign direct investment (FDI) in railways but is vary of investment from its neighbour in core and sensitive sectors.

Security issues could play spoilsport. China, according to a home ministry comment to the railways' FDI note, is perceived as Indias main rival in the economic field as well as militarily.