Steady Progress: Dedicated freight corridors, high speed rail and station redevelopment gain momentum

India is making steady progress in the transformation of the railway sector. With big-ti­ck­et projects such as dedicated freight corridors (DFCs), high speed rail (HSR) and station redevelopment, the sector will have immense opportunities in the coming years.

Indian Infrastructure takes a look at the progress of the key infrastructure projects un­der­taken by the railway sector and opportunities in the space…

Dedicated freight corridors

The western and eastern DFCs (WDFC and EDFC respectively) are being developed in In­dia with a view to segregating passenger and fr­ei­ght traffic on some of the busiest rail routes of the country. The key objective of DFCs is to increase the rail share in freight transportation by providing customised logistics services and creating additional rail infrastructure to cater to high levels of transport demand.

As of January 2023, Dedicated Freight Co­rri­dor Corporation of India Limited (DFCCIL) has completed 863 km and 861 km of work under the WDFC and the EDFC respectively. The construction work on the 62.65 km-long New Karchana-New Sujatpur rail section of the EDFC was completed in January 2023 while construction work on the 45 km-long Rewari-Nuh rail section of the WDFC was completed in Decem­ber 2022. Once fully completed, DFCs are expected to help decongest the railway rou­tes by moving around 70 per cent of goods trains to these corridors.

The detailed project reports for new DFCs is being prepared. These include Kharagpur-Vija­yawada (1,078 km), Palghar-Bhusawal-Nagpur-Kharagpur-Dankuni (2,106 km), Rajkharsawan-Kalipahari-Andal (200 km) and Vijayawada-Nagpur-Itarsi (931 km). Once approved, the new corridors will further decrease the transit time of railway freight transport and eventually inc­rease the share of railways in cargo movement. They will also open up opportunities for va­rious stakeholders. In the 2023-24 budget, Rs 274.82 billion has be­en allocated to DFCCIL, 75 per cent more than the Rs 157.1 billion allocated for 2022-23.

High speed rail systems

The visionary project of Indian Railways, the Mumbai-Ahmedabad HSR corridor has witnessed steady progress in recent times. Since December 2020, civil works have been undertaken on 352 km of the corridor located in Gu­ja­rat and Dadra & Nagar Haveli. As of Dec­ember 31, 2022, piers have been constructed for a distance of 126.44 km while pile work has been completed on 227.62 km. Apart from this, 24.73 per cent physical progress has been ma­de on the project. State-wise, Gujarat has ac­hieved 30.68 per cent progress and Maha­rashtra has achieved 13.37 per cent progress. Meanwhile, the girders of 21.44 km have been launched and rail slabs of 50 metres each at the Surat and Anand stations have been cast.

The entire project has been divided into 28 contract packages, including a training institute at Vadodara. Of these, 19 packages have been awarded, one is under evaluation, while notices inviting tenders (NITs) have been published for three packages as of December 19, 2022. For the balance five packages, NITs are yet to be published. Meanwhile, of 1,651 utilities, 1,596 have been shifted. Of the total land requirement of approximately 1,392.6 hecta­res, nearly 1,374.2 hectares have been acquired.

It is expected that more HSR systems will be implemented in the country. The Ministry of Railways has undertaken feasibility studies for routes on the Diamond Quadrilateral such as Delhi-Mumbai, Delhi-Kolkata, Mumbai-Chen­n­ai, Mumbai-Nagpur and Chennai-Bengaluru-Mysuru. Further, survey and DPR preparation have been undertaken for Delhi-Varanasi, Del­hi-Ahmedabad, Mumbai-Hy­derabad, Delhi-Chandigarh-Amritsar and Vara­nasi-Howrah.

Railway station redevelopment

Modernisation, upgradation and redevelopme­nt of railway stations is a continuous and ongoing process. It is dependent on traffic, priority of works and availability of funds. The works are planned for efficient execution based on factors such type and size of work, and its geographic location. As of December 2022, work on 48 railway stations is in progress and 19 railway stations are at various stages of tendering and planning. IR plans to redevelop nearly 400 stati­ons under the Station Redevelopment Progr­a­mme. In September 2022, the Union cabinet approved IR’s proposal for the redevelopment of the New Delhi railway station, Ahmedabad railway station and Chhatra­pati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, Mumbai. The th­ree projects are expected to entail a total in­vestment of Rs 100 billion.

In December 2022, a new scheme for the modernisation of railway stations, the Amrit Bharat Station scheme, was launched. Under this scheme, a total of 1,275 railway stations have been identified for development in the country, including in border areas. The redevelopment of railway stations across the country is expected to have a multiplier effect on the economy, in­creasing job creation and improving economic growth. It will open up opportunities not only for construction but also for facility management and commercial monetisation.

Suburban railway systems

The development of suburban railway systems in Bengaluru and Mumbai is also expected to offer new opportunities to stakeholders. Subur­ban railways play a very important role in connecting suburbs to cities and help in reducing permanent migration and traffic congestion issues in major cities.

The Bengaluru suburban rail project envisages four corridors and 57 suburban railway stations including 21 elevated stations. It aims to link Bengaluru with its satellite townships, suburbs and surrounding rural areas with a rail-based rapid transit system. The total length of the project is 148.17 km (55.40 km elevated and 92.6 km at grade). It is expected to entail an investment of Rs 157.67 billion. App­ro­v­ed by the Union Cabinet in October 2020, the first corridor of the project with a length of 41.4 km is expected to be completed by 2024 while the entire project will be completed by 2026. The project is being implemented by the Kar­nataka Rail Infrastructure Development Corporation (K-RIDE), a joint venture between the Ministry of Railways and the Government of Ka­r­nataka. The Bengaluru suburban rail project has received allocations of around Rs 13.5 billion under the Union Budget 2023-24.

K-RIDE issued a work order to Larsen & Toubro (L&T) on August 26, 2022 for civil works on Corridor 2 (Mallige Line). The work order has been awarded at an investment of Rs 8.5 billion. L&T has started preliminary works by barricading the worksites near the Hebbal Railway Sta­tion. Despite the start of exploratory work, the project is not progressing swiftly because of slow transfer of land by South Western Railway.

In a bid to meet the demands of the ever-growing commuter traffic in Mumbai, the Mu­mbai Rail Vikas Corporation is undertaking the Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP) 3 and MUTP 3A. The projects entail an investment of Rs 109.47 billion and Rs 336.90 billion. While MUTP 3 is under construction, land acquisition work for MUTP 3A is expected to be taken up soon. The Union Budget 2023-24 has allocated Rs 11.21 billion for various metropolitan transport projects in Mumbai with a substantial 91 per cent hike in funds for the MUTP. Out of Rs 11.21 billion, Rs 11 billion has been allocated for the MUTP alone. Of the funds allocated for the MUTP in 2023-24, the highest of Rs 6.5 billion will go to MUTP 3, Rs 3 billion to MUTP 3A and Rs 1.5 billion to MUTP 2.

The way ahead

There is a lot of activity in the railway sector at present, ranging from rail line decongestion to passenger comfort and safety. With the upcoming mega programmes, the sector has a bright outlook. In the coming years, the sector will offer significant opportunities for engine­ering, procurement and construction players, rolling stock providers, signalling and telecom players, electrification equipment manufacturers and consultants. Further, with increased digitalisation and ongoing technology adoption, there will be demand for technology and equipment providers.