A fortnight ago people in Madhepura in Bihar organised a havan programme to ensure that the proposed plan of the Railways to construct Rs 1300 crore electric loco factory, takes off. They have reasons to worship.
In India, there are 257 railway projects, some of them as old as over 25 years, which are incomplete. The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation's last status report of June 2009 shows that the anticipated cost of these projects has grown to Rs 90228.82 crore, as against the latest approved cost of Rs 51927.91 crore, indicating a cost overrun of 73.76 per cent. Sixty-seven projects have been delayed by 8 to 180 months.
"All these projects have got delayed in the absence of funds. No less than Rs 1 lakh crore is required to complete them," said Chairman Railway Board, S S Khurana.
The status reports says that as on June 2009, only 49 projects were progressing as per their time schedule, 141 within the time frame but have overrun the estimated cost, while 48 have exceeded both time frame and cost.
Interestingly, it also points out that a large number of these projects were sanctioned without completing the essential pre-project activities (like survey, detailed cost estimates and financial tie up for seeing the projects through) and without due care on the availability of resources. For many projects, the date of commissioning was not fixed or indicated, while there were several other projects, which are included in the Pink Book (Railway Budget) without a proper appraisal.
The Madhepura Greenfield loco project, announced in 2007-08, has already undergone three changes in the original plan. At first, the green field Electric Loco Factory was to be developed on public-private-partnership model, later the cabinet decided to develop it as a Railways Production Unit and now as a Joint Venture Company.
Though Madhepura is comparatively a new proposal, work on the construction of 73.5 kms Howrah-Amta-Champadanga new rail line under South-Eastern Railway that was announced in 1974, is still unfinished. The initial cost of project was just Rs 31.42 crore, it was re-announced in 2001 with the revised cost of Rs 154.30 crore. The rail line was to be completed by March 2007, but it is still part complete.
Nangaldam-Talwara new rail line under Northern Railway and the Guna-Etawah-via-Shivpuri Gwalior-Bhind rail line are on for 29 and 25 years respectively but still incomplete. A coal project that involved the construction of a 7-km rail line in Jharkhand, was started 25 years ago. It's still awaiting completion. The Rs 199.87 crore Pootkee-Balihari coal linkage project (of Bharat Coking Coal Limited) to produce 3 metric tonne a year of coal that was sanctioned in December 1983. It was to be completed in 1994.
Though the coal production has started, the railway line was still awaiting completion. An official of the BCCL, not authorized to speak to media, points to the geo-mining conditions and delay in getting forest clearance as the reason for the non-completion of the railway line.
For the 11 railway mega projects, approved at a cost of Rs 9,173.66 crore, the anticipated cost has now shot up to Rs 29796.74 crore. The project includes Lumding-Silchar-Migrendisa-Diitokcherra rail line (1996), Brahamaputra bridge at Bogibil (1996), Udhampur-Srinagar-Barmulla rail line (1995), Patna-Ganga Bridge (2001) and Koderma-Ranchi-via Hazaribagh and Barkakhana rail line (1999).
Though "slow progress in works", according to the report, has been the prime culprit affecting as many as 63 projects, fund constraints have delayed 28 projects, land acquisition problems (12) and law and order situation has affected five.