Video Courtesy Vishal Ghule You Tube channel
By Charles F Moreira, Editor
Based upon worldwide experience, rail transport is one of the fastest, cheapest and most environmentally friendly means to transport goods over long distances, compared to road and other modes.
According to WorldAtlas.com, India has the fourth largest rail network in the world after the United States, Russia and China. However, its freight trains are relatively slow and unpredictable because freight trains must share tracks with passenger trains, resulting in severe congestion and delays.
Also, at US4.44 cents per ton-kilometre (adjusted for purchasing power parity), India’s rail freight tariffs are amongst the highest in the world, compared to US2.28 cents per ton-kilometre in the United States, US2.57 cents per ton-kilometre in China and US3.33 cents per ton-kilometre in Russia.
The existing trunk routes of Howrah-Delhi on the east and Mumbai-Delhi on the west were highly saturated, line capacity utilisation varied between 115 percent to 150 percent. Indian Railways lost the share in freight traffic from 83% in 1950-51 to 35% in 2011-12.
Also, the rapid growth of India’s economy has created demand for additional capacity of rail freight transportation, and this is likely to grow further in the future.
Thus, most passengers and freight in India travel by road, so India’s solution to this problem is to construct a new, modern and separate rail network just for freight trains called the Dedicated Freight Corridor, two arms of which – i.e. the 1,468 km long Western Dedicated Freight Corridor from Dadri in Uttar Pradesh to Jawaharlal Nehru Port in Mumbai and the 1,760 long Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor from Ludhiana in Punjab to Dankuni in West Bengal are under construction right now, though so far, there is no indication of when they will be completed and operational.
Some of the latest and most advanced and highly mechanised construction methods are being used to lay the dedicated rail tracks with a huge machine laying a single 250 metres long rail track on mechanically laid concrete sleepers at once, thus extending the rail track by 1.5 km daily, instead of just 100 metres daily when constructed manually.
Once these two dedicated freight tracks are completed, they are expected to enable manufacturing, agricultural, mining, logistics companies and other industries to deliver their goods, including containers quickly, on time and in time to meet the demands of modern industry and global trade.
These corridors are expected to help raise the average speed at which freight trains travel from the current 25 km/h to up to 70 km/h, thanks to minimised delays and smoother travel of the trains. Also, most parts of these lines will be double tracked, so the trains will be able to run in one direction, relatively unimpeded by delays due to having to wait for other trains to get out of their way.
They are also expected to help reduce rail freight costs to about half that of road, whilst rail freight transit times are expected to be reduced to one-third, turnaround times will be shorter and more freight wagons will be available for re-use sooner.
Since these tracks will be electrified, the trains are expected to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to transport of the same goods by road. For example, trains on the Eastern dedicated Freight Corridor are expected to reduce greenhouse emissions from 116 million ton to 47 million tons
They are also expected to attract freight currently transported by road and with freight trains running on dedicated tracks separately from passenger trains, it is expected this will relieve congestion on passenger tracks and thus enable faster passenger rail service as well.
As these freight corridors will pass through stations in smaller cities and towns along their route, including some of the poorest and are expected to bring business opportunities and jobs along their routes, thus helping to alleviate poverty and bring prosperity.
They are also expected to greatly complement the Make In India initiative, announced on 25 September 2014 by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with the primary objective to transform India into a global manufacturing hub, by encouraging both multinational and domestic companies to manufacture their products within India.
Just approved in January 2018 are the:-
- East-West Dedicated Freight Corridor, 2,000 km-long from Kolkata to Mumbai.
- North-South Dedicated Freight Corridor, 2,173 km long from Delhi to Chennai.
- East Coast Dedicated Freight Corridor, 1,100 km long from Kharagpur to Vijayawada.
- South-West Dedicated Freight Corridor, 890 km-long from Chennai to Goa.
The South-West Dedicated Freight Corridor goes through Bangalore-Chennai Industrial Corridor promoted by Japan & India and is as a part of Bangalore-Mumbai Economic corridor promoted by the U.K. & India.
When completed, these six corridors will form a quadrilateral across India, with four sides connected to each other and two diagonals between each of the two corners.
This burgeoning demand led to the conception of the dedicated freight corridors along the Eastern and Western Routes. Minister for Railways, made this historic announcement on the floor of the House in the Parliament while presenting the Railway Budget for 2005-06.
Not exactly new
The idea of dedicated rail freight corridors for India is not exactly new, as it was unveiled in April 2005 when India and Japan announced their collaboration on determining the feasibility and possible funding of dedicated rail freight corridors, with the task to conduct feasibility studies on the western and eastern corridors assigned to RITES Limited (formerly known as Rail India Technical and Economic Service), a rail transport and management consultancy services company established in 1974 by the Government of India.
RITES submitted the Feasibility Study Report of both the corridors and Cabinet approved Task Force’s report in January 2006 and the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) gave “in principle” approval to the Feasibility Study report. Subsequently, RITES submitted the PETS Report based upon which the project was approved at a cost of Rs.281.81 billion.
India’s Ministry of Railways initiated action to establish a special purpose vehicle to undertake planning & development, mobilisation of financial resources and construction, maintenance and operation of these dedicated freight corridors and this led to the establishment of the Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Limited (DFCC), a Ministry of Railways enterprise, on 30 October 2006 as that special purpose vehicle, which continues to spearhead and lead development of these dedicated rail freight corridors today.