800-km stretch of dedicated freight corridor to be opened this year

Mamuni Das | Updated on: Aug 13, 2018

Removing the level crossings proved a major challenge as the locals opposed the move | Photo Credit: G_N_RAO

Almost 800 km of the Dedicated Rail Freight Corridor is set to open this fiscal, with the remaining stretch of 1,500 km to be commissioned next year.

The project is only 50 per cent complete in terms of civil and electrical works, according to an official source.

However, the “percentage progress” does not mean the project cannot be completed by next year, as a lot of time was taken for project preparation, the source said. Against its earlier plan to open the entire network at one go, the Railways has now decided to open it in phases.

The first phase of about 200 km — between Ateli (in Haryana’s Mahendragarh district) and Phulera (near Jaipur) — will be opened later this month. It will use diesel engines, as the North Western Railway is not yet electrified.

Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Ltd (DFCCIL), the infrastructure owner and manager, has handed over this set of tracks to the Railways, the operator. The Prime Minister, in his Independence Day speech, is likely to talk about this development, said an official. The government’s move to bring into effect the new land acquisition law had Railway officials in a quandary over the extent of compensation to be paid to each land-owner.


Land acquisition

The total land acquisition cost also doubled to ₹16,000 crore from the initial estimate of ₹8,000 crore after the new law came into force. This prompted a tweak in the routes.

The initial plan was to build new tracks away from the existing ones. After the new Act came in, to rein in land costs and prevent disputes, the Railways decided to build the freight corridor closer to the existing tracks.

Though many of these tracks run through railway stations — which could cause further project delays — the plan on the whole reduced complications as a lot of land parcels were already owned by the Railways, and DFCCIL could bypass negotiations.

More hurdles

Removing the level crossings proved another major challenge as several locals were opposed to it. The Railways involved the local governments to overcome this hurdle.

As it happens with most infrastructure projects, there were disputes on land acquisition, and with numerous contractors. “One of the big challenges was to ensure the bills were paid to contractors within the contract rules,” said a source.

The cost of the project, conceptualised in 2006, rose from the estimated ₹28,000 crore to about ₹81,000 crore, which was approved by the Cabinet.

The cost of funds from Japanese agency JICA and the World Bank also soared, effectively increasing the interest cost of loan repayment, which the Centre will have to bear.

Removing the level crossings proved a major challenge as the locals opposed the move

Published on August 13, 2018
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