By Neeraj Bajpai
Goods laden rakes running on dedicated corridors, sparing over burdened tracks for back-to-back swanky passenger trains filing fast solar energy-lit Swachch stations and smart cities in large swathes of the populous tion within next four years sounds like castles in air.
But many people are fairly sanguine that green shoots are sprouted. Rs 15,500 crore contracts were given in the past few months by the Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation Limited (DFCCL), and heavy machineries in large numbers are being moved on the ground to expedite the gigantic task which, for an example, is guzzling Rs 100 crore per month on the Khurja –Kanpur section alone against earlier investment of Rs.30 crore per month.
As deadlines loom, the fourth floor of five-storey building next to Pragati Maidan appears peaceful, but massive churning is underway with pre-bidding conferences notices on display boards and bureaucrats collating data from ground as the Rail Bhawan mounts continued surveillance on the progress. The building and the Corporation logo do not draw attention which is more focused on attractive stalls of sprawling exhibition ground but on ground locals say development is palpable.
“An alysis of the ordering progress by DFCCIL in the recent months reveal that the total value of contracts awarded since November is a whopping Rs 15,485 crore which is more than total works awarded by the same organisation in the past six years, that stands at Rs.13,125 crore” said officials flipping through piles of data sheets and browsing on computers.
Most of these contracts are for the construction of track and structures and electrical and siglling installations on the Western and Eastern Freight corridors. During the past few months, major contracts issued comprise civil contracts from Kanpur-Mughalsarai ( 402 kms) and Vadodara to Vaitar ( 320 kms), electrical and siglling contracts on western DFC from Rewari to Vadodara ( 950 kms).
Officials feel that the two DFCs would free up 70 per cent of railways cargo carrying capacity, but land acquisition challenges face the iconic project.This is despite the fact that 84 per cent of land acquisitions have been completed in both the corridors-including 88 per cent in the Western corridor and 79 per cent in the eastern corridor. Sixteen per cent is hanging fire, awaiting the new land laws.
According to DFCCIL sources, there are 1,042 court cases and 3,391 arbitration disputes pending as land losers have knocked courts’ doors.As a consequence, land is not available in 144 patches, affecting length of 245 kms in eastern corridor and 296 stretches impacting 113 kms in the western corridor. These patches are mainly in UP, Bihar, Maharashtra , Harya and Gujarat. DFCCIL’s Adesh Sharma says work is underway in full swing and now per day 80,000 cubic meter earth work is done against earlier data of 5000 cubic meter per day. Contractors, he said, had been directed to deploy two times in volumes the mandatory machineries ,More than 100 excavators are working in each corridor. December 2019 is the date line for completion based on the land acquisition status and contracts position.
Officials feel the Khurja-Kanpur will be ready by March 2018; Durgawati- Sasaram during the current fiscal, Mughalsarai-Songar by 2017 and Kanpur-Mughalsarai by December 2018. Likewise in the Western corridor Rewari-Iqbalgar has been planned for June 2018, Iqbalgarh-Vadodara by March 2019. The revenue will start trickling due to phased commissioning of corridors as the access charges will be levied. Mr Sharma has told media that multi-modal logistic parks and private freight termils, to be developed along the DFCs, will impart additiol income track access charges which are being calculated by an expert committee.
Flagging big ticket procurements filised by the DFCCIL, officials claim that after a long period stagtion, riddled with procurement sgs and procedural delays, both the corridors, being built by the corporation, an SPV ( Special Purpose Vehicle) of Railway Ministry have now started gathering momentum.
The tiol Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, last week, approved the revised cost estimate (RCE) of Rs.81,459 crore for both the corridors and the much awaited sanction has perked up things in the infra project. Of this amount, construction cost accounts for Rs.26,674 crores for the EDFC and Rs.46,718 crores for the WDFC and land acquisition cost of Rs.8,067 crore.
The Corporation, recalling previous handicaps, says that the origil estimate prepared by RITES in 2007 had to undergo many major changes as it had no provision of soft costs ( about Rs.27,381 crore like interest during construction ,insurance ,escalation and other contingencies. The estimate, they say, had no provision even for the basic electrification of WDFC and was devoid of the latest specifications already in vogue on word Railways.
Subsequently, during the revision, the standard of construction was raised from 25 ton axle load to 32.5 ton and a slew of advanced safety features including Train Protection Warning System (TPWS) have been incorporated.
Oblivious of these developments, passengers on trains debate on the corridors. A UNI correspondent, travelling on a Shatabdi train to Kanpur recently found travellers discussing large tracks of blanketing near Tundala . While a few passengers feigned ignorance, others said parallel highway is being made but other quipped, ”come what may ,something is happening”.
An informed railway staffer briefed them about the DFC ,but it evoked interesting comments from sceptics - these announcements of flagship programmes are all humbug and ”we are being bamboozled for make believe world”.
Twirling his moustache, a passenger commented that these projects should not be linked with party politics and such iconic programmes be appreciated– started by the previous United Progressive Alliance regime and expedited by the NDA dispensation as filly these will be tiol assets in a few years. Every project starts like these and one day dreadnoughts emerge in skylines.
The Western DFC is being funded by Japan Intertiol Cooperation Agency (JICA). Part of Eastern DFC ( Mughalsarai-Allahabad-Kanpur- Khurja –Ludhia ) is being funded by World Bank. Danduni –Songar section of the Eastern DFC will be through PPP. East west Corridor ( Kolkata-Mumbai) 2,330 kms, North–South corridor, 2343 km, East West Corridor ( Kharagpur-Vijayawada ) 1,100km and Southern Corridor ( Cheni-Goa) 899 kms are on slate as future corridors.
DFCCIL appears conceived for the development of dedicated freight line to boost freight transportation in Railways which will spur Railway share in transportation of goods. The dedicate Freight corridors were necessitated after saturation of Golden Quadrilateral ( which had linked four metros Delhi, Cheni, Howarh, Mumbai along with diagols Delhi-Cheni and Mumbai–Howrah)-with over 10,000 kms and carrying more than 55 per cent revenue earning freight traffic. In wake of the bulging traffic, the Government planned two Corridors— the Western DFC ( 1,502 kms) and Eastern DFC ( 1,840 km)——sparing a total length of about 3,342 route km.
The EDFC, starting from Dankuni in West Bengal, will pass through the states of Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Harya to termite at Ludhia. The Western corridor that will traverse the distance from Dadri (UP) to Mumbai–Jawaharlal Nehru) Port ( JNPT) will traverse the tiol Capital Region, Harya, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra.
Envisioning paradigm shift in the freight operation , the DFCs envisage long haul operation;trailing loads per train will increase from 5,000 to 13,000 tonnes. On the ground, works are on, but the Land Bill passage is all set to play pivotal role as the land acquisition is caught in legal wrangles. Civil works on Bhaupur-Khurja section is progressing well .The earth work for 150 kms formation and blanketing has been completed in 55 kms.
Likewise, civil works in Rewari-Iqbalgarh for 625 kms have been started. Work on embankments is in progress in about 150 kms and work on 70 minor bridges also got off. In Mughalsari –Songar section 65 m long bow string girder for new road overbridge at Bhabua was successfuly launched across three Indian Railway (IR) tracks a few months ago.