While sources said the creation of an authority would require an amendment to the Railway Act, Railway Board chairman RK Singh told FE that he was hopeful that the authority would be set up within a year.
The Railways has sought comments from ministries of finance, urban development, law and industry besides the Planning Commission on the issue.
Officials said that the Railways wanted to set up an Indian Railways land, air space and property development authority by bringing about a legislation.
Sources said that the authority would be set up on the lines of Delhi Development Authority with the Railways member, engineering, as the ex-officio chairman. The working head of the authority would be a president assisted by a vice-president and members.
The Railways with about 4.23 lakh hectare land is one of the biggest land owners in the country. About 0.18 lakh hectare of the Railway land is lying vacant, while another 0.02 lakh hectare is under encroachment.
However, the ministry of urban development and some state governments have reservations about the Railways plan.
While states wanted their share in revenue accruing from commercial utilisation, the urban development ministry was of the opinion that such land development was not part of the Railways core activities.
A formula worked out between the Railways and Maharashtra for the Mumbai Urban Transport Project has been circulated to other states for their views. The formula laid down that one third of the total earnings from the commercialisation of land and air space will go into development of rail network in the area, while the remaining goes to the Railways.
On the objections raised from some quarters whether a authority under the Railways should handle land development, Mr Singh said, we have every right to manage our land. Besides, we have taken a cue from other Railways who are doing so.
The Railways does not have any plan to sell its unused land but wants to use it for increasing its revenue. The Railways earned Rs 223.5 crore during the 2002-3 as against Rs 150 crore during 2001-2 from licensing and recovery of arrears of land use. Its earnings from this sector was Rs 94.5 crore in 2000-01 and Rs 30.4 crore in 1999-2000.
Sources said the increase in revenue from land use during the past fiscal was on account of arrears from oil companies which paid up licensing fee for oil depots on the Railways land. The revenue can further go up.
The proposed authoritys brief would be to put railway land and air space to commercial use for generation of additional revenue. Sources said the creation of authority under the Railways instead of a company would obviate the need to transfer land to the new entity.
Officials also added that the efforts for commercial utilisation of land at Howrah station had run into problems since the approval from the local government was required for change of land use.