Rail-Road Connectivity: Addressing evacuation issues

Addressing evacuation issues

Evacuation is the biggest challenge facing Indian ports today. Although major ports have double-line rail connectivity, all routes to key destinations are congested. In the case of non-major ports, a few like Pipavav, Dahej, Mundra, Dhamra and Krishnapatnam have adequate first mile connectivity. Beyond the first mile though, non-major ports too have the same problems as major ports. Some non-major ports, such as Dhamra and Mundra, have constructed railway lines at their own cost.

The Ministry of Railways (MoR) defines “adequate connectivity” for non-major ports as two-lane rail connectivity and adequate connectivity for major ports as four-lane connectivity. To augment connectivity, a number of port-rail connectivity programmes are being undertaken. These can be divided into three categories:

  • Projects being financed by the Ministry of Shipping (MoS). These projects focus mainly on improving rail infrastructure within a port or in the immediate vicinity of a port.
  • Line capacity augmentation works undertaken directly by the MoR, through Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL) or Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Limited (DFCCIL).
  • Customer-funded projects or projects funded from non-traditional sources by forming joint ventures (JVs) under the Policy on Participative Models in Rail Connectivity and Capacity Augmentation Projects.

Experience so far

So far, RVNL has formed six special purpose vehicles (SPVs) for providing port connectivity. Of these, Kutch Railway Company Limited, Bharuch Dahej Railway Company Limited and Krishnapatnam Railway Company Limited are fully operational. Haridaspur Paradip Railway Company Limited and Angul-Sukinda Railway Company Limited both providing connectivity to Paradip port are currently under construction. These two SPV projects have faced severe delays due to land acquisition issues. Meanwhile, the Dighi Roha Rail Limited SPV – formed to lay a rail line between Dighi and Roha in Maharashtra – has initiated the land acquisition process.

Moreover, Indian Railways (IR) had formed two SPVs, Pipavav Rail Corporation Limited and Hassan Mangalore Rail Development Company Limited, to provide connectivity to Pipavav and Mangalore ports respectively. Both these lines are now fully operational. The MoR has also formed two new SPVs with the JSW Group and Rewas Port Limited for connectivity to Jaigarh and Rewas ports in Maharashtra respectively.

In December 2012, the MoR issued a new policy, Participative Models in Rail Connectivity and Capacity Augmentation Projects. The policy has five models under it, of which the non-government railway model (NGR) and the JV models are preferred by port developers. Under the NGR model, the railway line is funded totally by private agencies including the acquisition of land while train operations are carried out by IR. Under the JV model, the project is implemented by the formation of a JV with IR, or its PSUs, with a minimum 26 per cent equity. The advantage of the JV model is that, once the SPV has been formed, the government agency is responsible for land acquisition.

Indian Port Rail Corporation Limited

The MoS has formed an SPV, Indian Port Rail Corporation Limited (IPRCL), with major ports and RVNL as equity partners, for undertaking port connectivity projects. The key objectives in setting up IPRCL are to provide efficient rail evacuation systems and to undertake projects providing last mile connectivity to major ports; modernise evacuation infrastructure at ports; operate and manage internal port railway systems; and raise funds for port-related connectivity projects. IPRCL is planning a strategic partnership with Deutsche Bahn, Germany, for the development of rail evacuation systems at ports.

IPRCL has initiated the modernisation of evacuation infrastructure at the Kandla, Paradip, Visakhapatnam and New Mangalore major ports. Besides this, IPRCL is also working on improving rail connectivity at the Haldia, Chennai, Kamarajar and Visakhapatnam ports.

A few major projects are at the planning stage. The first project is to develop a dedicated rail freight corridor connecting the coalfields of IB Valley and Talcher with the Paradip and Dhamra ports for the evacuation of coal and transportation of imported coal to the thermal power stations. The track length of this line will be 540 km and the first phase of the project is estimated to cost Rs 100 billion. The second project will provide last mile rail connectivity to the upcoming Colachel port in Tamil Nadu.

To improve rail connectivity of ports, a multi-pronged strategy needs to be adopted. This should be aimed at effecting faster turnaround of rakes at ports and inland container depots, reduction in transit time, and the optimal use of existing line capacity. w

Based on a presentation by Mukul Jain, Director, Operations, RVNL