After three years on the drawing board, the costliest project ever planned by the Indian Railways is finally getting a move on.
Global bids for designing a section of the proposed dedicated freight corridor (DFC) were floated last week. Signalling, electrical and civil works have also been initiated.
“Things are now moving”, said a senior official of the Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India, refusing to be identified as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
In 2006, the railways announced plans to build two dedicated tracks along India’s eastern and western flanks for faster movement of goods.
Containers from ports are to be moved on double stack containers on the 1,469-km long western DFC, connecting Mumbai to Delhi.
The 1,280-km eastern corridor will link Punjab’s industrial town of Ludhiana to Dankuni in West Bengal, facilitating movement of coal and iron ore to power plants.
The railways annually carry 833 gross million tonnes (GMT) freight. The traffic is estimated to multiply by 2020-21. The corridors will increase the capacity to 5,800 GMT, and subsequently 15,000 GMT.
“Of every rupee earned by the railways, 64 paise come from freight. The DFC is critical to its future needs,” a senior ministry official said.
In the last three years, the project cost has climbed from Rs 28.1 billion (Rs 28,181 crore) to Rs 42 billion (Rs 42, 000 crore).
Loan agreements haven’t been signed. Land acquisition, too, hasn’t made much headway.
Across nine states, 11,535 hectares have to be acquired. For a project of this scale and import, the railways can acquire land, but minister Mamata Banerjee is against “forcible acquisition”.
“Such a stance can delay the project significantly,” an official said on condition of anonymity.