Indian Railways has proposed an investment of at least ₹11,00,000 crore across three upcoming freight and cargo corridors — the energy, mineral and cement corridor, the port connectivity corridor, and the high traffic density corridors. The corridors will include 434 smaller projects and lead to an addition of over 40,000 km over the next six to eight years.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, presenting the Interim Budget 2024-2025 said, “Projects have been identified under the PM Gati Shakti for enabling multi-modal connectivity. They will improve logistics efficiency and reduce cost.” According to her, the resultant decongestion of the high-traffic corridors will also help in improving operations of passenger trains. This, in turn, will result in safety and higher travel speed for passengers.

“Together with dedicated freight corridors, these three economic corridor programmes will accelerate our GDP growth and reduce logistic costs,” she said.

According to Ashwini Vaishnaw, Railways Minister, the new corridors will help improve passenger services too by de-congesting the existing routes and also adding new lines. The detailed project report for some of the projects — which include track expansion, line doubling, adding new capacities on select routes, among others — is being prepared and some are “already at a Cabinet approval stage”.

“So what happens is there will be a host of smaller projects, some 434-odd, which have been scientifically selected to form these corridors that will improve freight movement. These will take the load off the country’s road network and passenger train movements,” he said.

Dedicated Freight Corridors

Of the two dedicated freight corridors, the Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor is fully operational, while most part of the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor has been commissioned. The total cost of the Dedicated Freight Corridor, including Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (WDFC) routes and other supporting infrastructure such as multi-modal parks, train sidings, among others, is pegged at ₹124,000 crore.

The EDFC, now covering 1,337 km, passes through Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bihar. On the western side, the Dedicated Freight Corridor will cover 1,506 km connecting States including Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra with Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. The WDFC and EDFC will connect with one another at Khurja in Uttar Pradesh.

Modernisation push

As per the Interim Budget documents, a total of ₹255,000 crore has been proposed as the outlay for FY25, up 6 per cent over last year’s outlay. Of last year’s record outlay, Railways utilised 82 per cent of it towards capex till January.

“We are on course to achieve full capex target for the fiscal,” the Minister said. “The target is to have 1,000 crore passengers by 2030 and bring down waitlisting numbers to zero,” Vaishnaw added.

This apart, 40,000 normal rail bogies (older version or traditional coaches) will be “converted to Vande Bharat standards”. This will enhance safety, convenience and comfort of passengers. The upgrade cost is expected to be to the tune of ₹15,200–16,000 crore and the upgrade is expected to be completed over a five-year period.

“This will improve passenger comfort across different routes,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, pointing out that modernisation of Railways is an important part of the Centre’s agenda.

Minister Vaishnaw said coach variants — such as Vande Bharat, Vande Bharat sleeper coaches and Amrit Bharat (which operate on the push-pull technology) — will continue to be rolled out as scheduled.

Urban infra upgrade

The Interim Budget also stressed on the need for urban transformation by promoting Metro Rail and NaMo Bharat (the Regional Rapid Transit Systems) as the catalysts.

The first NaMo Bharat train was inaugurated earlier in October 2023, and Prime Minister Modi took a ride on the completed 17-km stretch from Sahibabad to Duhai Depot in Uttar Pradesh.

The full 82-km Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut corridor is scheduled to be functional by 2025.