Coal Secy to meet CRB on pending Rail Projects needed for evacuation of Coal from Mines

While Govt mulls Joint Venture route to connect mines with tracks, Coal mining needs combined efforts from Railways and Coal Ministry: Coal Secretary

नई दिल्ली New Delhi: In a separate development, Anil Swarup, Coal Secretary, mentioned at a seminar organised by the MCC Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in Kolkata, that the Coal Ministry has identified 50 Rail Projects to ensure evacuation of coal from mines. It appears that a meeting has been set up with the Railway Board Chairman to discuss the issue threadbare. Subsequently, the method of financing the operations will need to be explored, he said.

The investment opportunities in the Indian Railways are mind boggling. From the current network of about 64,600 kms, plans are afoot to expand it by 25,000 kms in the next 6-7 years. Included in the plans are the six dedicated freight corridors (DFCs). These are to be constructed along the Golden Quadrilateral and its diagonals. Since 100% FDI (foreign direct investment) is allowed in the railway infrastructure, there is ample scope for capital intensive modernisation and capacity augmentation projects.

It is essential that the Railways clarify and advise us on the actual status of the following rail link projects, which have been in “various stages of development” for sometime now:
(a) Tori-Shivpuri-Kathotia in North Karanpura, Jharkhand … 91 Kms
(b) Bhudeopur-Korichchaapar to Mand Raigadh Mines in Chhattisgarh  .. 52 Kms
(c) Barpali-Jharasaguda in IB Valley, Odisha .. 180 Kms

These will improve coal linkages and will bring nearly 100 million tonnes incremental traffic to the Railways. If these three rail links alone are handled on a war footing, it is estimated that these 323 kms can unlock upto 300 million tonnes of coal!\

While addressing a large gathering of business leaders, attending the Airtel-The Economic Times Business Summit recently, the reformist Railway Minister, Suresh Prabhu stated that there is an urgent need for financing the various Railway projects to make it an engine of growth.  He said that there is an imperative need to expand the railway connectivity by another 30,000 to 40,000 kms of rail lines and to decongest the crowded routes.

He said that there is a need for funds for this purpose and this will have to be used efficiently used on realistic project costs.  He is reported to have further said that “if we don’t make investment in railways there won’t be any future revenue that will come into the Railways to improve the operating ratio”.

He made specific reference to accessibility of Pension funds in prosperous countries like Australia and Canada. He said that investment in Railways could add 2.5% to 3% to the growth rate in the next few years.

It is hoped that the Finance Ministry will consider the issue of generating the required finances for such projects. Pension could be one source.  The other is the availability of funds with Coal India in its reserves. Also, capital could be raised from the public. There is a need for the establishment of separate rail-road companies to manage these dedicated corridors for coal movement.  Wagon makers could be allowed to participate on a joint venture basis with the Railways and form independent corporations for such increased traffic. There are so many innovative ways in which the required finance can be generated, he said.

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