Acclaimed as a game changer in India’s rail-based logistics space, the dedicated freight corridor (DFC) project is well on its way to meeting the 2023 deadline. The $12 billion project is expected to free up significant freight carrying capacity on the existing railway network. In particular, the Golden Quadrilateral (along with its diagonals) will witness significant freed-up capacity. In terms of route km, the Golden Quadrilateral accounts for a share of about 16 per cent but carries 52 per cent of IR’s passenger traffic and 58 per cent of freight traffic. Thus, once rolled out, the DFC will provide the much-needed breather for the capacity-
crunched quadrilateral. The DFC project comprises two corridors – the 1,856 km Eastern DFC (EDFC) that runs from Ludhiana to Dankuni and the 1,504 km Western DFC (WDFC) from Dadri to the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT).
- EDFC: As of October 2019, contracts worth $7.5 billion have been awarded for the EDFC. Besides, 88 per cent work on the 351 km long Khurja-Bhaupur stretch has been completed and the trial run on the Khurja-Badhan section (194 km stretch) has already been conducted. On the 538 km Sonnagar-Gomoh-Dankuni section (which is part of the EDFC to be executed on the public-private partnership model), land possession is nearing completion. For the Sonnagar-Gomoh stretch (Phase I), 88 per cent of the land (1,074 hectares) and for the Gomoh-Dankuni stretch, 87 per cent of the land (829 hectares) has been acquired. Besides, for the first phase, stakeholder consultation as well as floating of the request for qualification (is expected to be held by the end of October. Further, the request for proposal will be floated by January 2020, and the concession agreement is expected to be signed by July 2020.
- WDFC: The WDFC is a fully electrified stretch with double-line operations. About 81 per cent of the work on the 641 km long Rewari-Palanpur stretch stands completed. Trial runs on the Rewari-Madar stretch are expected to commence by end November 2019. Recently, trial runs were successfully conducted on the Madar-Kishangarh-Balawas section.
Strategies and innovations
Multipronged contracting strategies and innovative solutions are being deployed for project execution. For instance, FIDIC’s (International Federation of Consulting Engineers) Yellow Book has been customised for carrying out railway infrastructure works. The slice-and-package system has been resorted to to bring in greater competition. Also, international competitive bidding has been carried out for several works, resulting in savings of 15-20 per cent in contract costs. With regard to innovation in civil works, there has been extensive use of precast technology for faster execution. Other sound practices include incorporating standardised bridge designs and inclusion of mass-produced components. New technologies are also being deployed. For project monitoring, drone-based systems are in place. Besides, GIS-based applications are also being utilised for monitoring project progress. Cost-saving measures are being taken by moving away from fully mechanised and preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
Much of the freight traffic on the EDFC is expected to be sourced from its port connectivity routes. The EDFC stretch is slated to connect with seven ports – JNPT in Maharashtra; Nargol, Dahej, Mundra, Hazira and Kandla in Gujarat; and JSW Nandgaon in Maharashtra. Of these, the Mundra and Kandla ports will be connected to the DFC through feeder routes.
New corridors planned
In addition to the EDFC and WDFC, four new corridors, with a combined length of about 6,600 km at an investment of Rs 3 trillion, are planned. As of October 2019, the Railway Board had approved preparation of detailed project reports for the Kharagpur-Vijayawada section of the East Coast corridor and the Kharagpur-Nagpur section of the East-West corridor.
There exists immense opportunity in reducing logistics costs. India spends about 15 per cent of its GDP on logistics, in contrast to an 8 per cent spend by the US and Germany. Due to inefficiencies in the logistics sector, about $45 billion is lost annually. Given this, the DFC project is both well timed and much needed. Once operational, the project will enable faster, higher and longer heavy haul, and will result in a quantum jump in rail freight capacity. Besides, connectivity to private freight terminals, major ports and non-major ports is expected to streamline the logistics value chain considerably.