The Indian Railways plans to construct tracks that lead up to all major and minor ports in the country. Chairman, Railway Board (CRB), K.C. Jena elaborates on the scheme in the following exclusive interview with Srinand Jha of the Hindustan Times – while also touching upon other ongoing projects including the ambitious scheme to construct Dedicated Freight Corridors.
Port connectivity plans have been a high priority area with the Railways. What is the status of implementation?
The scheme is proceeding satisfactorily. Four projects involving the construction of 591 km of track and costing Rs 1,002 crore have been completed and commissioned, while there are seven ongoing schemes — involving the construction of 527 km of tracks at a cost of Rs 1,797 crore.
For the second phase, the Railways have identified new ports including Dahej and Hazira in Gujarat, Rewas and Dighi in Maharashtra and Valerpada in Kerala. In addition, the Railways are constructing a World Bank-funded Greenfield port in West Bengal. In coming years, freight traffic is estimated to grow phenomenally. Therefore, the Railways are focusing in this area.
What has been the progress on the ambitious scheme to construct Dedicated Freight Corridors in the Eastern and Western sectors?
We are well on course. These two corridors — covering a 2,762-km route — are planned to be constructed by way of loans from the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, Japan Bank International Corporation and through internal revenue generation of the Railways. Concepts have been worked out and Expression of Interest (EOIs) have been invited for the design and construction of the proposed double track electrified railway lines.
Some initiatives have lately been taken for constructing high-speed corridors. How feasible is the concept? Should this be a priority area?
At a juncture when so many technological innovations are happening worldwide, India needs to remain in the loop. The Railways has identified five routes for running the High Speed or Bullet Trains and global tenders for conducting pre-feasibility studies in two routes have been identified. These are the Delhi-Chandigarh-Amritsar and the Pune-Mumbai-Ahmedabad routes.
The budget hotels scheme appears to have been put on hold. What are the constraints?
The Railways wants to construct 100 budget hotels in the first phase and tenders for 22 sites had been floated earlier. Of these, we have had to hold back 11 sites as they were interfering with plans to construct world-class railway stations.
The Railway Land Development Authority (RLDA) does not appear to be a pro-active body. Comment
That’s not true. The RLDA is actively working on plans for the commercial development of railway land at two locations: Sarai Rohilla in Delhi and Bandra (East) in Mumbai. The authority has completed consultancy at 10 sites, while feasibility studies are in progress at 51 sites.