Still Awaited: DFCs to enhance IR’s freight traffic and earnings

DFCs to enhance IR’s freight traffic and earnings

The eastern and western dedicated freight corridors (DFCs) are the much-needed and long-awaited additions to Indian Railways’ (IR) freight carrying capacity. The ambitious project was launched in 2006. Almost 13 years into its inception the project has repeatedly failed to meet the timelines. There are many reasons for the inordinate delays, key among them being acquiring land and obtaining environmental clearances. As a result, IR has been consistently losing freight volumes to the road sector. The delay has also resulted in a cost escalation of about Rs 81 billion with the revised cost estimate being Rs 814 billion. Still execution has been slow, and only about 200 km has been constructed under the eastern corridor and 496 km under the western corridor. Nonetheless, once completed, the corridors will bring about a remarkable improvement in freight transportation and timely movement of trains.

Indian Infrastructure tracks the progress reported under the eastern and western DFCs:

Eastern DFC (EDFC): The EDFC spans a length of 1,856 km from Ludhiana in Punjab to Dankuni near Kolkata in West Bengal and is being developed in a phased manner. EDFC I involved development of the 343 km Khurja-Bhaupur section. In January 2013, the contract for laying tracks and civil works was awarded to a joint venture (JV) of Tata Projects Limited and Spain-based Aldesa. The contract entailing electrification works and deployment of signalling and telecommunication systems was awarded to a JV of Alstom and Alstom Transport SA in July 2015. After a gap of almost five years, the first section spanning 200 km from Bhadan to Khurja was finally completed on November 30, 2018. As part of the stretch, a total of six stations, 249 bridges consisting of 17 major, 137 minor, 92 railway underbridges (RuBs) and three rail flyovers (RFOs) have been developed. Further, work on the 143 km Bhadan-Bhaupur stretch in Uttar Pradesh was likely to be completed by January 2019, but no update with respect to its completion is available.

The 402 km EDFC II entails the construction of the Mughalsarai-Karchana (near Allahabad) and the Karchana-Bhaupur (near Kanpur) sections. The contract for this was awarded to a JV of GMR Infrastructure Limited and Sew Infrastructure Limited (GIL-SIL), with tracks being laid by Kalindee Rail Nirman (Engineers) Limited. Work is already in progress and is expected to be completed by August 2019.

Further, as part of EDFC III (Ludhiana-Khurja), the contract involving development of the 222 route km Khurja-Pilkhani section was awarded to Larsen & Toubro Limited. The scope of work includes construction of a single railway track including yards, 75 major and 588 minor bridges, four RFOs, and 21 stations along with the modification of a railway overbridge. As of December 2018, earthwork on the section is under way and the entire work is expected to be completed by March 2020. Further, work of laying tracks on the 126 km Sonnagar-Mughalsarai stretch is in progress. It has been taken up by Kalindee Rail Nirman (Engineers) Limited and is expected to be completed by October 2019.

Development of the 538 km Sonnagar-Dankuni and 46 km Khurja-Dadri sections will be taken up later. The Sonnagar-Dankuni stretch is planned to be developed on a public-private partnership basis.

Western DFC (WDFC): Under the WDFC, which entails the development of 1,504 km from the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust to Dadri, work on stretches spanning a length of 496 km has been completed. The 190 km Ateli-Phulera section was completed in August 2018 and a trial run of the first double-stack container freight train was conducted. Under this section, 10 viaducts and major bridges, 127 minor bridges, one RFO and 118 RuBs have been developed. Further, there are six DFC stations and two junctions located at Ateli and Phulera.

In December 2018, the 306 km section between Madar (Ajmer) in Rajasthan and Kishangarh (Rewari) in Haryana was completed. The route has six newly built freight stations located at Dabla, Bhagega, Sri Madhopur, Pachar Malikpur, Sakhun and Kishangarh and three junctions located at Rewari, Ateli and Phulera. Further, 15 major bridges, 271 minor bridges and 177 RuBs have been constructed.

Meanwhile, work on the 128 km Madar (Ajmer) to Marwar junction (Pali) section is in progress and is expected to be completed soon. Completion of work on the 207 km Marwar to Palanpur (Gujarat) section will facilitate shifting of freight from ports such as Mundra to the DFC. Further, work on other corridors is expected to be completed by March 2020.

Next steps

The western and eastern DFCs are vital for increasing the total freight traffic carried by rail by at least 144 metric tonnes by 2022. The DFCs will transform the logistics industry and provide industry players with a cost-effective option to transport freight. The move to increase train speeds from 75 kmph to 100 kmph on DFC routes will also allow timely delivery of goods thereby improving haulage. Further, it will facilitate industrial activity and the creation of multimodal value-addition hubs along the corridors resulting in opportunities for manufacturers and other stakeholders.

Going forward, another two corridors – the 2,328 km East-West Corridor and the 1,115 km East Coast corridor – have been proposed for development. This will further boost the railways’ freight carrying capacity and increase IR’s freight revenue.