Amrit Bharat Station Scheme: Sixty Suburban Railway Stations To Get Facelift In Tamil Nadu


The first phase of improvement will focus on 60 stations located in the divisions of Chennai, Tiruchi, Salem, and Madurai.

The Union Railway Ministry introduced the Amrit Bharat station scheme (ABSS) in the Railway Budget 2023-24. The aim of this scheme is to transform and standardise civic amenities at suburban stations.

The Ministry intends to upgrade all stations across the country in phases as part of the ABSS.

The inspiration behind the ABSS comes from the recognition of the existing disparities and shortcomings in suburban stations. By implementing this scheme, the Railway Ministry seeks to improve the overall experience for commuters and enhance the quality of these stations.

As part of the ABSS, the Railway Board has instructed each division of the railway zones in the country to identify 15 stations for redevelopment.

In the case of Southern Railway, which has six divisions, a total of 90 stations have been allocated for redevelopment.

The first phase of improvements will focus on 60 stations located in the divisions of Chennai, Tiruchi, Salem, and Madurai.

The Chennai division of the railway has identified 15 stations for the ABSS project, with inspiration taken from the successful re-modification of the Kudrah station in Odisha.

These suburban stations, located in and around the city, are expected to become landmarks, with some of them transforming into multi-modal transport hubs.

The railway officials in Chennai have collaborated with stakeholders from the Tamil Nadu government, including Chennai Corporation, CUMTA, and metro and highways, to execute the project.

One of the stations included in the ABSS project is Guindy, situated between the metro station and the bus stop on Race Course road. Plans are underway to create a common access point to both the metro station and the bus stop through a foot over-bridge.

This interlink will enable seamless movement of passengers between these facilities. Neglected stations in the northern section, such as Sullurpeta and Gummidipoondi, will also be redeveloped to serve as important transit points for commuters travelling to Andhra Pradesh and beyond.

The ABSS project will also bring a makeover to stations in the western section, including Perambur, Ambattur, and Tiruvallur.

The railway officials intend to transform Perambur into a mini-terminal for certain long-distance trains, which will help reduce their running time.

Additionally, the historic Chennai Beach station, known for operating the first metre-gauge train to Tambaram, is expected to undergo remarkable changes.

The ABSS initiative, aimed at creating roof plazas and city centres, involves developing a master plan for stations to meet the needs of stakeholders and enhance amenities.

The plan has been approved for all 90 stations across the six divisions, with tenders awarded for 35 stations and the remaining 55 stations in the finalisation process.

As part of the project, 12-meter-wide foot overbridges will be installed at 13 stations, with six of them planned for the Chennai division alone. The total budget for the 148 projects at the 90 stations amounts to Rs 934 crore, with the four divisions in the state accounting for Rs 630.47 crore.

The Tiruchi division has issued Letters of Acceptance (LoAs) for five out of the 15 stations.

These stations include Srirangam, Lalgudi, Tirupadiripuliyur, Thanjavur Junction, and Vellore Cantonment. Surveys have been completed for all 15 stations and tenders have been invited. The remaining 10 stations will receive LoAs soon.

The allocation of funds for this scheme in the Tiruchi division ranges from Rs 4 crore to Rs 6 crore. The Gati Shakti unit will supervise the station development work, which is expected to be completed by the end of the financial year, according to The Hindu report.

The Salem division has chosen 15 stations for major upgrades in passenger amenities and station facilities. These stations were selected based on footfall and earnings and have been well received by passengers.

A master plan has been approved for all 15 stations, and tenders are being finalised for Karur, Bommidi, Chinna Salem, Morappur, Samalpatti, Tiruppur, Tirupathur, Coimbatore North, and Podanur.

Fresh tenders have been called for Udagamandalam and Coonoor, and bids will be opened for Mettupalayam.

The Adarsh station scheme has the potential to transform these stations into presentable ones with better elevations, improved amenities, and facilities such as lifts, escalators, skywalks, and better parking areas. Additionally, the stoppage of express trains at important stations should be given due consideration.

LoAs (Letters of Agreement) have been issued for 10 stations, including Palani, Paramakudi, Ramanathapuram, Sholavandan, Virudhunagar, Rajapalayam, Srivilliputhur, Kovilpatti, and Tenkasi in the Madurai division.

The tenders for two stations are being finalised, while three stations are yet to have their tenders floated. However, there seems to be insufficient awareness of these projects.

Even during the recent meeting of the Divisional Railway users consultative committee, the projects under the ABSS were not explained to the members. One specific request is to improve toilets and lighting on platforms-3 and 4 at the Karaikudi station.

Challenges Of Suburban Stations

The prominent railway terminals of Tamil Nadu differ greatly from the numerous suburban stations. While the suburban stations are smaller and lack character, they are also drab, and often not very clean.

Despite their role in transporting thousands of commuters, these stations rarely take advantage of commercial opportunities and suffer from poor maintenance compared to the sleek metro stations.

Although there have been improvements in cleanliness and maintenance over the years, many stations still face issues such as bad lighting, cramped platforms, chipped tiling, lack of information and announcements, mismatched amenities for commuters, and insufficient parking spaces.