The Railway Board has been suggested to carry out creation of “strategic (coal) corridors” to relieve stress on the existing network and “prepare the railway infrastructure for a surge in demand”.

An internal analysis  shows that setting up of such dedicated coal corridors could help the Indian Railways “in assisting the energy sector” by meeting the aim of generating 3,000 billion units (BU) by 2030 and fuelling the economy’s growth. 

Energy generation is pegged at 3,000 BU with population rising to 1.51 billion. The Railways anticipate coal consumption to move up to over 1,850 million tonnes (mt), with thermal power still accounting for majority of energy consumption (and renewables being at 30 per cent). 

The Indian Railways predict that “demand for coal will increase at a drastic rate” and accordingly, it “must plan its infrastructure to cater to such surge in demand”.

Coal Movement Zones

Majority of the coal moves from Odisha, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh to the north, west and southeast regions of the country. And so, “it is necessary to create coal corridors in these routes in line with DFC corridors”, an official said. 

The East-Coast Dedicated Freight Corridors (DFC) and the eastern part of the East-West DFC corridors are to be developed “on priority”, the report mentions. This will provide access to coal mainly from Talacher, IB valley and elsewhere to various ports located on the  eastern coastline (Paradip, Haldia, etc). 

“Hence, it is necessary to create coal corridors in these routes in line with DFC corridors,” the report added. 

Projects under-way 

The Traffic, Transportation and Business Research (TT&BR) unit has identified and listed 615 priority projects in a report sent to the Railway Board in December 2022 and these covered 132 super critical (Category 1) projects due for completion by FY25,  another 184 super critical projects (Category 2) with a target date of completion in FY27, and 299 critical projects due for  completion in FY28. 

“So, the development of India will depend on thermal energy and coal transportation,” the internal study reportedly mentions. 

Some of the category-1 Super Critical projects cover 76 track enhancement projects like the Sambalpur-Titagarh one pegged at a cost of ₹2,300 crore (approx) and initiated in 2006-07, the 175 km long Sambalpur -Talcher one pegged at over ₹1500 crore; the recently sanctioned Bhimsen - Jhansi route worth of over ₹2,200 crore, the ₹4,000 crore-odd Pune-Miraj-Londa route sanctioned in 2015-16, among others. 

There are 56 (rail) yard re-modelling and traffic facilities works that include ones like Panvel - Kalamboli Coaching Terminus to serve Navi Mumbai area — Phase -I Stage - 1, the Lokmanya Tilak Terminus - Augmentation of Coaching facilities, among others. 

Similarly, Category 2 includes 110-odd track enhancement projects, 26-odd automatic signalling works and 48 yard re-modelling & traffic facilities works. Work here is yet to start. 

While, the 299 critical projects — many of which are underway — include 183 track enhancement projects and 116 yard re-modelling & traffic facilities.