Transforming IR

Railway infrastructure is witnessing rapid development with various upcoming and ongoing mega projects in the pipeline. Construction work on these projects has been progressing in full swing after overcoming the impediments caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The projects have also opened several avenues of investment for the various stakeholders involved.

Indian Infrastructure takes a look at the progress so far and construction opportunities offered by key railway infrastructure development projects…

Station infrastructure redevelopment

Station infrastructure development is one of the most ambitious mega projects being undertaken by Indian Railways (IR) as most of the stations on its network require a revamp. For this, the Indian Railway Stations Development Corporation (IRSDC) was set up in 2012 as a nodal agency for the station development programme and has emerged as a single-point project approval agency over the years. Since its inception, IRSDC has achieved various milestones such as the Habibganj and Gandhinagar stations becoming the very first station redevelopment projects in the country to be developed on the public-private partnership and engineering, procurement and construction modes respectively.

The Habibganj station is being redeveloped with an investment of Rs 1 billion and is expected to be completed by December 2020. The station’s subway is currently operational and 90 per cent of the overall work has been completed. Various innovative techniques are being used in the development of this station. A cantilever cover was constructed at the station platform for the very first time and 44 concourse girders were erected.

Expected to be completed by December 2020, the Gandhinagar station will have a 5-star hotel with 318 rooms constructed over the station. Owing to its close proximity to the Mahatma Gandhi Convention Centre, the hotel is expected to receive a huge footfall. Project implementation faced a number of issues including encroachment near the station premises and construction of a 7.5 metre deep beam to ensure that the station could withstand the 15-storey hotel building. However, all the issues have been resolved and construction works are now progressing at a satisfactory pace.

The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus in Mumbai is also being developed by IRSDC at an estimated cost of Rs 13.14 billion. Besides, commercial development has been planned for the Byculla and Wadi Bunder stations. The Surat station is being redeveloped into a multimodal transport hub at an estimated cost of Rs 8.95 billion. The revamped transport hub will have bus terminals, metro rail connectivity and commercial buildings. These redevelopment projects will boost infrastructure development in their vicinity and provide an impetus to the economies of the cities they are situated in.

IRSDC has also undertaken the redevelopment of various other stations such as Anand Vihar, Bijwasan and Chandigarh. These stations offer market opportunities with regard to the development of more than 7.5 million square feet of area. A 99-year lease period is being offered on the development of these stations and there is no mandatory cost attached to them, except for the Chandigarh station. Several other stations in cities such as Amritsar, Gwalior and Sabarmati are also coming up at a combined investment of Rs 6.65 billion.

The station infrastructure development projects were badly hit by the Covid-19 outbreak. Construction activities were halted due to unavailability of labour and stakeholders becoming unenthusiastic owing to the uncertainty on their return on investment. The supply chains too were adversely affected as materials being sourced from overseas could not reach the construction sites as per schedule. While the timelines of the projects were disrupted due to the aforementioned issues, they have now been resolved to a great extent and the projects are expected to meet their deadlines.

Mumbai-Ahmedabad HSR corridor

The Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed rail (HSR) corridor project is a 508 km rail link being constructed in the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. It is expected to cost Rs 1.08 trillion, of which about 81 per cent is being funded through a Japanese loan. The corridor will consist of 12 railway stations – eight in Gujarat and four in Maharashtra. All the stations will be elevated except for the station at the Bandra Kurla Complex which will be an underground station and will be integrated with Mumbai’s metro network. The operating speed of the train is expected to be 320 kmph and the total travel time between the two cities will be around three hours.

Incorporated in 2016, the project is being implemented by National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL), the special purpose vehicle incorporated by the central government and the Gujarat and Maharashtra state governments.

So far, of the total land requirement, 90 per cent has been acquired in Gujarat and around 40 per cent in Maharashtra. Ground survey works have been carried out using the aerial LiDAR technique and a general consultant for the project has been appointed. Besides, social impact assessment of the project stands completed.

With regard to the construction contract, contracts for packages C4 and C6 covering 325 km of viaduct were awarded in November 2020. The tenders for packages C1, C2, C8, P1B, P1C and P4 have also been invited. Meanwhile, tenders for track, electrical, signalling and rolling stock are expected to be invited soon.

With a view to giving a boost to the central government’s Make in India initiative, the construction contracts for tracks, tunnels and steel fabrication of bridges have now been opened to Indian companies. Initially, these contracts were reserved only for Japanese companies or Japanese-led joint ventures. While the project management consultant (PMC) for electrical, signalling and rolling stock works will be selected from a list of nominated Japanese contractors, the tender for PMC works for civil construction is open to Indian contractors as well.

Through the development of HSR corridors, IR aims to transform the conventional railway network by introducing world-class technologies. The Mumbai-Ahmedabad HSR corridor will deploy the Japanese Shinkansen system, which has not had a single fatal accident in 60 years of operations. Since the corridor is being developed on the Shinkansen system, there is a need to train the drivers, technicians and engineers so as to familiarise them with the new system. For this, an HSR training institute has been set up in Vadodara in which selected engineers and technicians will be enrolled.

Further, the train speed will be continuously monitored and controlled through a comprehensive disaster management system. A total of 22 seismometers will be placed along the tracks, five temperature sensors will be installed at locations where the rail temperature is expected to be the maximum, and six rain gauges will be installed at vulnerable locations and 14 anemometers at locations where strong winds are expected.

Dedicated freight corridors

Freight traffic on IR’s network is the fourth highest in the world. Currently, passenger and freight trains run on the same network due to which both segments have failed to achieve optimum efficiency. As a result, roads have overtaken rail in terms of freight traffic movement with the former having a 59 per cent share as compared to the latter’s 33 per cent share. Hence, there is a need to develop a rail network that caters exclusively to freight traffic.

The western and eastern dedicated freight corridors (DFCs) are being developed to segregate passenger and freight traffic on some of the country’s busiest rail routes. Launched in 2006, the key objectives of the ambitious project are increasing the share of rail in the freight market by providing customised logistics services, creating additional rail infrastructure to cater to high levels of transport demand, introducing timetabled freight trains and guaranteed transit times, deploying high-end technology for freight services, segregating freight infrastructure for focused approach on both the passenger and freight business, and reducing the unit cost of transportation by speeding up freight train operations and achieving higher productivity .

The Western DFC (WDFC) will comprise 1,499 km of double-line electric (2×25 kV) track from the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust in Mumbai to Dadri in Uttar Pradesh. It will pass through the states of Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. The Eastern DFC (EDFC) will cover a route length of 1,839 km consisting of two distinct segments – an electrified double-track segment between Dankuni in West Bengal and Khurja in Uttar Pradesh and an electrified single-track 447 km segment – Ludhiana (Dhandarikalan)-Khurja-Dadri – in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. Meanwhile, a 43 km link between Dadri and Khurja will also be developed to connect the two corridors.

While the WDFC will have a double-stack container movement track structure, the EDFC will be developed for single-stack container trains. Land acquisition for the corridors is nearly completed with 99.6 per cent of the land acquired. The project is being developed by avoiding disruption of the local ecosystems. Afforestation drives along the railway line are being carried out, underpasses to facilitate free movement of animals are being constructed and catchment areas of all waterbodies are being protected. Both the corridors are expected to be completed by June 2022.

The DFC project is expected to provide a massive boost to various industries. So far, its implementation has created a demand for 20 million cubic metres of stone ballast, 8 million cubic metres of concrete, 1 million tonnes of rail, 11 million concrete sleepers and 350 million cubic metres of earthwork. The project will also require telecom and electrical wiring facilities, thus creating market opportunities for a wide range of industries.

The development of the DFC corridors involves the use of various modern techniques for construction. New track construction machines have been deployed that lay 1.5 km of track in a single day. Electrical wiring is also being done by using a mechanised wiring train that lays wires to the extent of 30 km per day. Besides, concreting is being carried out through mobile auguring and tractor auguring. The train management system on the corridor will be fully computerised with control rooms for the EDFC and WDFC situated in Prayagraj and Ahmedabad respectively.

Besides the two existing DFCs, another three corridors – East Coast Corridor, East West Sub Corridor and North South Sub Corridor – have also been proposed to further provide exclusivity to freight traffic on the rail network. The proposed corridors will have a combined length of nearly 4,000 km, creating significant market opportunities.

Going ahead

The railway sector plays a vital role in the country’s transportation system due to which it is being rapidly developed to be at par with global standards. The short-term development projects have been adversely affected by Covid-19 as the government decided to put on hold non-essential infrastructure projects in a bid to rationalise expenses. However, with the gradual easing of restrictions and restarting of construction activities, the long-term outlook for the sector looks optimistic with the private sector and international organisations taking active part in its development. w

Based on presentations by R.K. Singh, Director, Projects, IRSDC; Rajendra Prasad, Director, Projects, NHSRCL; and Hari Mohan Gupta, Director, Infrastructure, Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Limited, at a recent India Infrastructure conference

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