Dedicated rail freight corridor awaits PM Modi’s nod

Representative image. (Photo/Pixabay)

After missing a few deadlines, the ambitious Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Ltd (DFCCIL), under the Ministry of Railways, has set itself a fresh target to complete the twin freight corridors connecting Dadri in Uttar Pradesh with Mumbai and Ludhiana in Punjab with Howrah in West Bengal.

The company that struggled in the initial days due to delay in land acquisition, loan, green clearances and procedural wranglings, has now set the target to complete more than 60-70% of the work in the two corridors-Western and Eastern in this financial year and make them fully operational by 2021.

The Narendra Modi government had plans to showcase the Eastern and Western Dedicated Freight Corridors among its achievements in the 2019 general elections. But after missing the deadline, the Prime Minister's Office has taken it upon itself to ensure that the company completes the project in mission mode.

Set up in 2006, the DFCCIL's mission was to undertake planning and development, mobilisation of financial resources, construction, maintenance and operation of the dedicated freight corridors. Other tasks also include setting up of multi-modal logistics parks along the DFC to provide complete solutions to customers.

In the first phase, the government entrusted the DFCCIL to implement two corridors – Eastern Corridor (from Ludhiana in Punjab to Dankuni in West Bengal-1,856 km) and Western Corridor (from Dadri in Uttar Pradesh to Jawaharlal Nehru Port in Mumbai-1,504 km).

Progress

The total cost of the projects has been pegged at Rs 81,459 crore, and DFCCIL has joined hands with international agencies such as World Bank and JICA for financing it.

“We are using modern technology in laying of tracks and signalling systems, which would improve the load-bearing capacity of the corridor. This would allow us to run freight trains at a speed of 65 to 75 kmph as against the existing speed of 35-40 kmph,” Suresh Angadi, Minister of State for Railways told DH.

The DFCCIL has invested over Rs 50,000 crore in the building of dedicated freight corridors so far and a 1,000-km stretch on both Eastern and Western corridors is expected to be operational during the current financial year. Angadi said the project has been put on a fast track and time-bound targets have been assigned for completion.

For both the corridors, 10,667 hectares of land is being acquired across 61 districts spread over nine states.

The first section of the Eastern DFC – 200 km stretch from Khurja to Bhadan in Uttar Pradesh – completed and it is fully electrified. The current train runs are being conducted with as many as 20 long haul goods trains. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to flag off the first freight train on this route soon. The company will start earning revenues only after its commissioning.

As for the Western Corridor, a trial run on the 192 km long route between Ateli (Haryana) and Phulera (Rajasthan) in the Western DFC has been launched. Since the trains were hauled by a diesel locomotive, the electrification work is on. Ultimately the Eastern and Western Corridors will be fully electrified. 

Asia's biggest control room to monitor the running of goods trains on Eastern DFC has been built in Prayagraj and it is ready for inauguration. Once functional, it will monitor the running of trains on the Ludhiana-Howrah corridor that stretches over 1,856 km.

At a time when India is grappling with high logistics costs of 16-18%, which is making export uncompetitive, the government is under intense pressure from industry groups to complete the DFC at the earliest.

The DFCCL officials believe that once both the corridors are complete, the cost of freight movement in the country would be 40% cheaper than what it costs now. 

The main objective of the DFCCIL is to reduce the transportation cost by speeding up freight train operations, increase rail share in freight market by providing customised logistic services, segregate freight infrastructure for focussed approach on both passenger and freight business of railways, create additional rail infrastructure to cater to high level of transport demand and introduction of time-tabled freight services and guaranteed transit time.

Future plan

In the railway budget 2016-17, the government had proposed to take up three more freight corridors. The Ministry of Railways has sought the approval of the Union cabinet to build three new DFC networks with an investment of around Rs three lakh crore.

As per the proposal, the government plans to build the East-West Corridor (2,328km) connecting Kolkata and Mumbai, the North-South Corridor (2,327km) between Delhi and Chennai and the East Coast Corridor (1,114km) connecting Kharagpur and Vijayawada. Another corridor linking Chennai to Madgoan in Goa is also expected to be taken up in later stages.

DFCCIL is expected to generate revenues mostly through Track Access Charges realised from Indian Railways and other authorised rail users, with the hope that transportation of freight through rail mode picks up considerably over the years.

Various studies have projected that freight transportation through trains was expected to increase to 2,165 million tonnes in 2020 from around 1,107.10 million tonnes in 2017, with DFC expected to corner a sizable chunk of it.

Industrial corridor

Besides building freight corridors, the DFCCIL will also develop multi-modal logistics parks, freight terminals and theme parks alongside the corridor.

 

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