Railway Stations — how the new redevelopment drive targets a fulfilling travel experience

Indian Railways — the nation’s lifeline, has for long, lagged behind in civic infrastructure, serving millions throughout its span of nearly one hundred and seventy years, but in need of an urgent overhaul and revamp of existing structures.

The government has upped the ante through its massive railway station upgrade programmes, targeting the renovation of over 400 stations, to account for demarcated arrival and departure zones, security, passenger-flow management, shopping, and other amenities.

The Union Cabinet approved of the redevelopment plan to be supervised by a nodal agency known as the Indian Railway Stations Development Corporation (IRSDC), making way for a large-scale modernization and infrastructure upgrade. It is among the largest Transit-oriented development (TOD) programmes in the world.

Earmarked stations include the Amritsar Railway Station, Bhopal Habibganj station, Chandigarh Railway station, as well as Bijwasan and Anand Vihar in Delhi NCR. With up to sixteen million passenger footfall every day and a 7 % annual growth in footfalls, it is evident why the scheme’s execution is expedited on multiple fronts. Two levels of commercial development are envisioned, on the basis of commercial potential and passenger flow.

The major points to take away from this venture are:

  • Arrival/departure demarcation
  • Concourse development/ revitalization
  • Food and retail outlets and kiosks
  • Passenger lounges
  • An efficient ingress/egress involving lifts and escalators

The new, repurposed stations are expected to give a fillip to their immediate surroundings, to the extent of becoming the nerve centres of the cities.

The station redevelopment programmes focus on improving passenger comfort, facilities, and built environments through infrastructural interventions, establishing a positive travel experience, development of the station’s architecture in accordance with the city context in addition to adding commercial value to surplus railway land.

Architecturally, railway stations can reinforce existing structures, look for natural lighting mechanisms, ensure sufficient seating and waiting halls, focus on effective waste management, and build well-defined ingress and egress routes, including proper signages, added scope for differently abled, and a comprehensive PA system. This, in addition to emergency service systems, and a modern ticket-swiping system can hugely benefit passengers, promoting organized, enhanced mobility and alleviate unnecessary chaos.

An iconic façade is never far behind on this list, and citizens revel in having a visual connection to their towns’ railway stations — a nostalgic appreciation that marks every travel. One immediately conjures up images of the Mumbai CST, the Howrah Station, or London’s King’s Cross. Their buildings have immense symbolic and cultural value, driving their city’s cultural narrative for decades and centuries. This is what we aim to emulate here, at the Amritsar Railway Station as well as in other cities.

Design Forum International is a young-old organization with almost 25 years of experience that has quickly set the right foot to be one of the best architecture firms in India. The firm is a vibrant mix of young and experienced professionals bounded by a common thread: the passion to design. An active contributor to the Nation Building drive and the Indian infrastructural boom, DFI holds vast industry experience in both national and international projects with millions of square feet of construction in a varied range of typology like Affordable Housing, Master planning, Mixed use & Retail, Institutional as well as Healthcare. Some of DFI’s notable projects include the famous Select Citywalk mall, and the recently inaugurated New Courts Block of Delhi High Court., the ITO Skywalk, Delhi and the Dakshineshwar Skywalk in Kolkata. The Guwahati International Airport in Assam, designed by DFI is also under completion and is scheduled for completion in 2021.