Indian Railways (IR) has been on a high growth trajectory for the past few years. The focus on infrastructure creation has been enabled by projects such as high speed rail (HSR), dedicated freight corridors (DFCs) and regional rapid transit systems (RRTSs). Meanwhile, new and innovative ways to improve the passenger experience are being adopted under the station redevelopment programme. With the launch of big-ticket programmes and schemes, the sector has been flooded with activity.
Indian Infrastructure takes a look at the progress of key infrastructure projects being undertaken in the railway sector…
Dedicated freight corridors
The freight traffic on IR’s network is the fourth highest in the world. In a bid to segregate passenger traffic and freight traffic on some of the busiest rail routes of the country, the western and eastern DFCs are being developed. Launched in 2006, the project aims to increase the rail share in the freight market by providing customised logistics services, creating additional rail infrastructure to meet the increased demand for transport, and introducing timetabled freight trains and guaranteed transit times.
The western DFC will cover a distance of 1,499 km of double-line electric (2×25 kV) track from the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust in Mumbai to Dadri in Uttar Pradesh. In a notable development, the 306 km long Rewari-Madar section of the western DFC project was inaugurated on January 7, 2021. This section consists of nine newly built stations, of which six are crossing stations, while the other three are junction stations. The opening of this stretch is expected to benefit various industries in the Rewari, Manesar, Narnaul, Phulera and Kishangarh areas of Rajasthan and Haryana. The eastern DFC 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 segment of 447 km, connecting Ludhiana (Dhandarikalan), Khurja and Dadri in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh respectively. A 43 km link between Dadri and Khurja will also be developed to connect the two corridors. Progressing well, the 351 km New Bhaupur-New Khurja stretch of the eastern DFC was inaugurated on December 29, 2020. Further, the eastern DFC’s operation control centre at Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh, was inaugurated. Giving a major impetus to infrastructure development, three new corridors, namely, the East-Coast Corridor, East-West Sub Corridor and the North-South Corridor, were announced under the Union Budget 2021-22.
High speed rail corridors
The development of HSR projects has been a key focus area of IR for the past few years. The HSR corridors will connect key Indian cities such as Mumbai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Goa and Chennai. The development of HSR corridors will facilitate the doubling of the speed of passenger trains to 350 kmph, and the introduction of other world-class technologies.
The country’s first HSR corridor is the 508.09 km Mumbai-Ahmedabad HSR (MAHSR) corridor, which is being implemented by National High-Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL). The total project cost, accounting for escalations, interest during construction, taxes and duties, stands at Rs 1.08 trillion. The project is being undertaken with financial and technical support from Japan, which has pioneered the famous Shinkansen bullet train. The project has a construction period of about seven years and is targeted for completion by 2024. IR is prepared to commission the project in phases, if the need arises. The project is facing delays due to land acquisition issues in Maharashtra. As per the latest updates, 68 per cent of the total land required for the project has been acquired. Around 95 per cent of the land has been acquired in Gujarat and Dadra & Nagar Haveli and 22 per cent in Maharashtra. In case there are further delays in land acquisition, IR will commission the MAHSR corridor project till Vapi, Gujarat, in the first phase. Several contracts for the project have been awarded and tenders for civil works are currently under bidding. In November 2020, Larsen & Toubro won a mega contract (Package C6) from NHSRCL to construct 87.56 km of the project.
In September 2020, feasibility studies for seven upcoming HSR projects have been permitted. These are Delhi-Amritsar (459 km), Chennai-Mysore (435 km), Mumbai-Nagpur (753 km), Mumbai-Hyderabad (711 km), Delhi-Ahmedabad (886 km), Delhi-Varanasi (865 km) and Varanasi-Howrah distance.
The RRTS is among the ongoing big-ticket infrastructure projects in the railway sector. The high-priority project aims to decongest the national capital’s transit system across all modes. Its implementing agency, the National Capital Region Transit Corporation, is a joint venture company of the central government and the state governments of Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. The project is being developed in phases and eight corridors have been identified for development, of which three have been taken up on a priority basis. These are the Delhi-Meerut (82 km), Delhi-Panipat (103 km) and Delhi-Alwar (164 km) stretches, which total to about 350 km in length and are part of the first phase of the project. All three corridors of Phase I will converge at Sarai Kale Khan, and will be interoperable providing seamless movement.
As far as project progress in concerned, work on the Delhi-Meerut stretch is under way. The stretch entails an investment of Rs 302.74 billion. It will receive funding worth $1 billion from the Asian Development Bank, $500 million from the New Development Bank and $500 million from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. As per the latest updates, the foundation work at Sahibabad, Ghaziabad, Duhai and Guldhar on the priority section between Sahibabad and Duhai has been completed, and the construction of super structures is under way. In addition, the pier construction of more than 16 km of the 82 km corridor has been completed, with around 550 piers erected on which approximately 4 km of the RRTS viaduct has been laid. Meanwhile, construction work on the Sarai Kale Khan station has begun.
Given that most of the stations on IR’s network require a revamp, the development of station infrastructure has become an important part of railway development. Work on the redevelopment of 123 stations is in progress. 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. Other agencies such as the Rail Land Development Authority (RLDA) are also implementing the projects. Of the 123 stations, IRSDC is working on 63 and RLDA is working on 60 stations. The total investment needed for the redevelopment of 123 stations along with real estate development is about Rs 500 billion. IRSDC has achieved several milestones. For example, the Habibganj and Gandhinagar stations are the first station redevelopment projects in the country to be developed in public-private partnership and engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) modes, respectively. Recently, the railway minister reviewed the progress of the Habibganj and Gandhinagar railway stations. These stations are being revamped with facilities at par with airports as well as multimodal hubs. The redeveloped stations will have features like “segregation of passengers based on arrivals and departures”, thus providing congestion-free movement at concourse and platforms.
As per the latest updates, the redevelopment of the Gomti Nagar railway station in Lucknow will be completed by December 2022. It is being done in two phases – mandatory station development and commercial development – at a total construction cost of Rs 1.90 billion and Rs 1.70 billion respectively. The station is being redeveloped by RLDA, in partnership with National Buildings Construction Corporation Limited, in EPC mode. Meanwhile, work on the redevelopment of stations has been initiated in Nagpur, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, Ajni, Gwalior, Sabarmati, Ayodhya, Safdarjung, New Delhi, Tirupati, Nellore, Dehradun, Amritsar, Ernakulam and Puducherry.
The railway sector is poised for growth in the coming years. With the commissioning of big-ticket projects such as new DFCs, RRTS, HSR and station redevelopment, market opportunities in the sector will be abundant. These developments will not only have a promising outcome for domestic stakeholders but will also attract opportunities from their foreign counterparts. However, to ensure that this happens, it is imperative that the government stays committed to improving the overall rail service scenario in the country and takes the required measures in a time-bound manner.