IPRCL: Gearing up to improve port-rail links

Gearing up to improve port-rail links

Evacuation is one of the biggest challenges being faced by Indian ports today. Though all major ports have double-line connectivity, routes to key destinations are congested. In order to execute last-mile rail connectivity projects and internal rail projects of the major ports more effectively and efficiently, a special purpose vehicle (SPV), Indian Port Rail Corporation Limited (IPRCL), was incorporated under the administrative control of the Ministry of Shipping.

Structure and objectives of IPRCL

IPRCL was registered under the Companies Act, 2013, in July 2015, with an initial authorised capital of Rs 5 billion and a paid-up capital of Rs 1 billion. The SPV is funded by 11 major ports (all, except Cochin) which contribute 90 per cent of the equity, while Rail Vikas Nigam Limited contributes the remaining 10 per cent. The Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) has the maximum equity stake of 15.3 per cent, followed by the Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT), the Paradip Port Trust (PPT) and the Visakhapatnam Port Trust (VPT), each with a contribution of 10.8 per cent. The other seven major ports hold the remaining 42.3 per cent.

The objectives of IPRCL are to provide efficient rail evacuation systems and to undertake projects involving last-mile connectivity to major ports. The SPV is responsible for modernising evacuation infrastructure, operating and managing internal port railway systems and raising financial resources for funding port-related connectivity projects. IPRCL also assesses the intermodal gaps in handling rail cargo at major ports and develops suitable solutions to enable seamless cargo flow.

“IPRCL aims to decrease the time taken during loading and unloading of cargo from the present 8-10 hours to 4 hours and then to 2 hours, as set by the NITI Aayog,” says Anoop Kumar Agrawal, managing director, IPRCL. 

Progress so far

IPRCL has identified a total of 58 projects entailing an investment of Rs 168.21 billion, which are at various stages of implementation. Of these projects, 24 per cent are under construction, bids for 12 per cent are under process, 38 per cent works are under planning, discussion, development and review with the major ports, 14 per cent of the rail connectivity projects to non-major ports are under planning and sanctions are awaited for the remaining 12 per cent works involving rail overbridges (RoBs)/rail underbridges (RuBs) works under the Setu Bharatam programme.

JNPT, with three projects, accounts for the maximum share in the total cost of the projects. These projects involve the construction of a third rail line from Jasai to JNPT, the development of a dedicated freight corridor (DFC)-compliant common rail yard and the provision of rail connectivity to the fourth container terminal. The foundation stone for these projects was laid on May 30, 2017. These projects are expected to enhance connectivity of the hinterland to JNPT.

As of October 31, 2017, construction work on 14 projects (covering 105 km) involving an investment of Rs 6,738 million is in progress.

To conclude, the dedicated port-rail corporation is expected to fast-track port connectivity projects. This, in turn, will help increase the percentage of cargo being evacuated from ports via rail, reduce the cost of transporting cargo through optimising the modal mix, and improve export competitiveness, among other positives. However, going forward, the issues being faced by IPRCL such as delays in shifting utilities, problems in securing site clearances, and cost escalation need to be addressed for faster project execution. Also, a multi-pronged strategy for improving rail connectivity needs to be adopted. This includes faster turnaround of rakes at ports and at inland container depots, timely execution of connectivity projects, and optimising the existing line capacity at major ports.