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Indian Railways' heritage routes likely to be monetised

July 10, 2019 18:53 IST

The railways heritage lines that are part of the UNESCO-accorded sites list include Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Nilgiri Mountain Railway, and Kalka Shimla Railway.

As part of its plan to monetise land and assets for meeting the highest-ever divestment target of Rs 1.05 trillion, the government is likely to throw open Indian Railways’ heritage routes and stadia, including the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Delhi, for private sector investments.


According to multiple sources privy to discussions, representatives from the NITI Aayog, Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM), ministry of youth affairs and sports, and railways ministry, have had two rounds of meetings in this regard.

These meetings took place before Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s maiden Budget last week.

The NITI Aayog has proposed selling or monetising the stadia owned by the Central government.

Plans could include selling the stadia completely or inviting real estate players to use them commercially.

At least six stadia are lined up in the initial list including the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the 27th largest stadium in Asia with a capacity of 60,000 people, and the Karnail Singh Stadium in Delhi under the Indian Railways.

The sports ministry has reservations on the idea of monetising the national stadia and more meetings could take place to sort out differences.

DIPAM is of the view that as long as the administrative ministries agree to the monetisation plans, the move will be able to generate investor interest.

An official said that some models had been explored, including allowing firms to take over the stadia or to use them for commercial purposes like setting up hotels and shopping malls, on condition that they would have to simultaneously develop sports infrastructure.

An existing example is the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata, administered by the Indian Football Association.

There are two hotels inside or adjoining the complex, including a Hyatt.

“On average, an investment of around Rs 1,000 crore is expected from private players in each of these stadia.

"There are five stadia in Delhi that are under the department of sports, which are under consideration.

"In addition, the stadia under Railways, too, may be monetised,” said an official.

“This is a great idea by the government to earn more revenue from such assets.

"A majority of such assets are not used up to its full potential. At this point, it may be early to assess the value of such assets.

"Even during the ongoing cricket World Cup, one Hilton hotel was facing a stadium. Globally, it is a known model,” said Anshul Jain, country head and managing director, Cushman & Wakefield India.

The five stadia that are under the ministry of youth affairs and sports include Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium Complex, Indira Gandhi Sports Complex, Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Swimming Pool Complex (formerly known as Talkatora Swimming Pool), Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium (formerly known as National Stadium) and Dr Karni Singh Shooting Ranges (formerly known as Shooting Range Tughlakabad).

On the other hand, among railway stadia, South Eastern Railway Stadium in Visakhapatnam and Karnail Singh Stadium in Delhi are under consideration.

The railways heritage lines that are part of the UNESCO-accorded sites list include Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Nilgiri Mountain Railway, and Kalka Shimla Railway, while Matheran Hill Railway is also in the tentative list of UNESCO heritage sites.

The Indian Railways legacy already has plans for a special purpose vehicle to manage its heritage assets, through which private parties, too, can invest.

There are plans to monetise these properties as well for non-fare revenue generation.

Currently, the Railway spends Rs 250-300 crore annually to maintain and manage heritage assets.

Shine Jacob & Arup Roychoudhury in New Delhi
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