CSTM not to lose World Heritage site tag by converting offices into museum: Railways

Mumbai/New Delhi, Jan 7 : The Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSTM) building would not lose its Unesco World Heritage site tag even if it shifts the Central Railway offices from there to convert the office space into a museum, Railway Ministry officials claim.

The Central Railway had , in December 2017, sought permission of the Railway Board to shift its headquarters from the iconic 129-year-old CSTM to another place in Mumbai and convert the present office into a museum.

“The proposal to convert the CSTM into a museum was received by the Railway Board 15-20 days ago,” a senior Railway Ministry official told IANS.

He also said that the Central Railway has proposed to construct its new headquarters in Mumbai’s P. D’Mello Road, which is just a few kilometres away from its current headquarters.

“They have given an estimated cost of Rs 65 crore to Rs 100 crore to construct the new building,” the official said.

While the offices of the Central Railway would be shifted from the iconic building — the most photographed structure in India after the Taj Mahal — the train operations below it will not be affected by the decision.

“The trains will continue to arrive and depart out of the 18 platforms at the CSTM, that is also a Unesco World Heritage site,” the official said.

Asked whether converting the offices into a world-class museum would not affect the tag of the Unesco World Heritage site, which it got in 2004, he replied, “We have considered Unesco World Heritage site norms. And by converting the building we would be conserving the originality of the building; thus there is no danger to the Unesco World Heritage site tag.”

“It will also help the Railways to maintain the building properly as the number of visitors will be controlled,” he said.

Asked how the idea of converting the building into the museum came about, the official replied, “Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, during his visit to the CSTM on November 27, wrote in the visitor’s book that he wanted to see the building converted into a museum.”

“The minister wanted the building to be conserved properly as a Unesco World Heritage site,” he added.

The official said that the proposal was prepared within a week’s time and was sent to the Railway Board and is awaiting clearance from the Chairman.

The official also revealed that the Central Railway’s General Manager D.K. Sharma, in his letter along with the proposal to the Railway Board, has suggested that as the work of the museum is highly specialised in nature, the project of converting the building into a museum should be done through the board’s office of Executive Director of heritage.

He has also asked the Railway Board to seek the opinion of experts for the museum work.

The official said that the work might commence from May this year which also marks the 130th anniversary of the Central Railway.

Currently, the CSTM building houses three offices, where around 400 employees of the Central Railway work.

The CSTM building was designed by British architect Frederick William Stevens. The iconic building resembles London’s St Pancras railway station and was commissioned in 1888 after the construction took 10 years.

The famous architectural landmark in the Gothic-revival style served as the headquarters of the Great Indian Peninsular Railway. The zonal railway operates from the same building since 1951.

The station was known as Victoria Terminus — VT for short — till 1996. The name of the station was then changed to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in honour of the Maratha emperor Chhatrapati Shivaji.

The station was again renamed in May 2017 as the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus after a resolution to change the name was passed in the Maharashtra Assembly in December 2016.

The Home Ministry officially sent a letter to the Maharashtra government denoting the name change in May 2017.

According to the Central Railway officials, every day above three million suburban commuters use the railway station.