Picking Up Pace: Tracking the progress of the DFC project

Tracking the progress of the DFC project

In order to ensure speedy and timely freight transportation, the Ministry of Railways (MoR) launched the dedicated freight corridor (DFC) project in 2004-05. With an investment of over Rs 800 billion, it is one of the biggest ongoing infrastructure projects in the country. To facilitate its implementation, a special purpose vehicle, Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Limited (DFCCIL), was formed with the MoR holding a 100 per cent equity stake.

Scope of works

Under the DFC project, six high capacity freight corridors will be developed along the Golden Quadrilateral highway network and its diagonals. Under Phase I of the project, works on two corridors – the Western and Eastern DFCs – were taken up in 2008.

The Western DFC is proposed to span a length of 1,856 km, across Bihar, Haryana, Jharkhand, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. Goods and industrial materials such as coal, steel, foodgrains, cement, fertilisers and limestone will be transported along this route. A total cost of Rs 511.01 billion will be incurred on its development, which will be financed by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

Meanwhile, the Eastern DFC will traverse Haryana, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh over a total distance of 1,520 km. The corridor will be used primarily for the transportation of port containers, petroleum-oil-lubricant products, fertilisers, foodgrains, salt, coal, iron, steel and cement. DFCCIL will invest Rs 303.57 billion for its development. While most of the project works, amounting to $2.73 billion, will be financed through loans from the World Bank, funds will also come in the form of equity funding by the MoR and through public-private partnerships.

DFCCIL has targeted the commissioning of 677 km along the two corridors in 2017-18 (334 km and 343 km for the Western DFC and Eastern DFC respectively). The first portion of the Western DFC, a 190 km double-track route between Ateli and Phulera, is scheduled for commissioning in March 2018. In 2018-19, 1,656 km of the DFC will be commissioned (Western DFC: 959 km, Eastern DFC: 697 km), followed by 433 km in 2019-20 (Western DFC: 211 km, Eastern DFC: 222 km).

Progress and recent developments

As of February 2017, 96 per cent of the land for the two corridors had been successfully acquired by DFCCIL. In the past two years, contracts worth Rs 357 billion have been awarded under the project. Of this, Rs 117 billion worth of contracts were awarded between April 2016 and February 2017 alone. Corridor-wise, all civil and electrical/signalling contracts for the development of the Western DFC have been awarded. On the other hand, as of October 2016, about 17 per cent of civil contracts and 38 per cent of electrical/signalling contracts for the Eastern DFC were yet to be awarded by DFCCIL.

Some of the other key developments under the DFC project that have taken place recently are as follows:

To give an impetus to project works, the MoR has budgeted an investment of Rs 32.7 billion in DFCCIL for the current fiscal year (2017-18).

  • In a trial run, the first goods train (59 BOXN wagons; tonnage: 5,265 tonnes; commodity: clinker) was run on the DFC track from Durgawati to Sasaram (56 km) in Bihar, in March 2016.
  • Trials for monitoring the progress of work were conducted through drones over a 42 km stretch on the Western DFC and over 56 km on the Eastern DFC.
  • Track-linking works with mechanised track laying machines have commenced at Bhadan, Maitha and Daudkhan on the Eastern DFC and at Bhagega on the Western DFC. Track-linking works over 342 km have been completed so far.
  • The progress of earthwork and concreting on the Rewari-Iqbalgarh section of the Western DFC and the Khurja-Kanpur section of the Eastern DFC has been further accelerated.
  • DFCCIL has finalised policies for the development of private freight terminals, sidings and port terminals.

Upcoming opportunities

Besides the Eastern and Western DFCs, the MoR has identified four other corridors for development under the DFC project. These are the North-South Corridor (Delhi-Chennai), East-West Corridor (Kolkata-Mumbai), the East Coast Corridor (Kharagpur-Vijayawada) and the Southern Corridor (Chennai-Goa). These upcoming corridors are expected to offer significant opportunities to various market players – contractors, consultants, equipment and vehicle providers, and system/technology providers.

While the preliminary engineering and traffic surveys for the North-South, East-West and East Coast corridors have been submitted to the Railway Board, DFCCIL has completed field data collection works for the East Coast Corridor. However, no update is available for the proposed Southern Corridor.

Going forward, the DFC is set to be a game changer in the freight transportation segment. It will lead to a quantum jump in IR’s transportation capacity, increase port connectivity and provide faster and longer container services. However, DFCCIL will need to simultaneously address issues pertaining to financing, land acquisition and project implementation and monitoring to ensure the success of the project.