AHMEDABAD: After the bullet train, here’s another feather in Gujarat’s cap. In a huge impetus for the industry and people, Gujarat is coming up with a comprehensive ‘State Railway Plan’ that will chart an ambitious roadmap for 30 years of rail connectivity.
The plan, first by any state in the country, will explore all possibilities for rail connections in Gujarat to provide cheaper and faster passenger and freight mobility as well as reduce pollution. The plan gains importance considering that a national railway plan has been in the works since many years, but is yet to come to fruition.
Last month, through a process of open bidding, consulting firm Ernst & Young LLP was selected to prepare the blueprint for Rs.1.99 crore. To be completed by December, the study will map existing capabilities in state in various modes of transportation and estimate future potential to evolve areas that need to be linked by rail connectivity.
G-RIDE (Gujarat Rail Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd), an SPV (Special Purpose Vehicle) that has 49% stake of Indian Railways and 51% of the state government, will execute the rail projects. G-RIDE has a mission to develop and augment critical Railway Development projects, enhance capacity of High Density Network and provide last mile railway with main railway line of the State with high standards of safety, and efficiency by adopting the best technological practices, sound financial strategy and optimum utilization of resources through implementing large capacity creation programs.
Accordingly, G-RIDE Board has identified 6 (six) potential rail projects as below to be implemented by forming various project specific SPVs with the potentially interested project related stakeholders:
- Katosan-Becharaji-Chanasma-Ranuj (65 Km) Line Gauge Conversion from MG to BG
- Vayor to Koteshwar New Rail Line Connectivity (43 Km)
- Chhara Port Last Mile Connectivity Project (19 Km)
- Nargol Port Last Mile Connectivity Project (14 Km)
- Bedi Port Last Mile Connectivity Project (3 Km)
- Surat-Kosad-New Sanjali (DFC Station)-New Line (44 Km)
Out of the above 6 (Six) projects, G-RIDE has initially taken up Katosan-Becharaji-Chanasma-Ranuj (65 Km) Line Gauge Conversion from MG to BG project for implementation by forming project specific SPV with 3 Stakeholders namely Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC), Maruti Suzuki India Limited (MSIL) & G-RIDE itself being one of the equity partners of this Project SPV. Preparation of Feasibility Study &Detailed Project Report (Technical) for the same is under progress. G-RIDE shall take up remaining identified projects in subsequent stages.
The services of Consultancy Firm are to provide General Consultancy Services to G-RIDE i.e design review including Proof-checking, system integration, assistance in procurement, project management services, contract administration and interface management including assistance in formulating/freezing of specifications, guidelines, testing etc for all the projects undertaken by it. The consultant shall be required to carry out the work as per the Terms of Reference of the RFP.
G-RIDE intends to commercially exploit the space within the Railway ROW through property development. This activity may be taken up either along with or independent of other project activities. The designs for the project shall make provision, however, for subsequent activity of property development too. The Consultant (for GCS) would frame tenders for the same. The services of a chief property development expert having expertise in the field may be obtained as and when required by G-RIDE. However, engineering requirements are essentially foreseen.
ZA Khan, Director (BD & Finance) of G-RIDE, said: “No state has so far has made a rail plan and once this is in place, Gujarat would be the first to do it. Through the plan we would explore all possibilities for rail connections in Gujarat for providing cheaper and faster passenger and freight mobility as well as reduce pollution. Once the plan is in place we will be able to undertake projects which can be developed, in some cases with private firms, along with ensuring their financial closure. It will span 33 districts with data of industries, transport department, private cars, rail networks, business parks, investment regions etc. GIDB will be the nodal agency which will also coordinate with all department, districts and central departments.”
Ahmedabad is slated to benefit with plans afoot to connect all crucial satellite towns and growth cities in its 100 km radius like Mehsana and Surendranagar in a move similar to NCRTC (National Capital Region Transport Corporation).
Akin to the rail network in Germany, intercity trains Rajkot-Ahmedabad, Jamnagar-Rajkot, Ahmedabad-Vadodara-Surat may be planned.
“Apart from convenience, it can also stop migration from villages as people can commute to work and get back. Additional freight movement will be another gain,” added Khan.
Ashwini Kumar, CEO of Gujarat Infrastructure Development Board (GIDB), said: “The study will take into consideration transportation sector, vehicular density, passengers on trains, pollution, economy, freight movement and try to get solutions through mass rapid transport systems.”
In Project Mode
In the works are the line conversion of 102 km meter gauge into broad gauge for Kalol-Katosan-Chanasma-Ranuj line which will benefit Mandal-Becharaji Special Investment Region (MBSIR) entailing cost of Rs 510 crore.
Industrialists and office-bearers of apex bodies in Gujarat gave a thumbs up to the idea and suggestions for the way forward. Shailesh Patwari, President of Gujarat Chamber of Commerce & Industry (GCCI) told RailNews,“A rail plan will benefit the industry, with cities bursting at its seams and traffic situation worsening by the day. Public transport connecting cities plays an important role in mature economies like Europe and Japan where even delays are clocked at 30 seconds. The plan should be such that seamless connectivity is ensured and delays are minimal.”
Jaimin Shah MD & CEO of Dev IT and Chairman of NASSCOM Domestic Council said, “This is exciting news for the IT industry. The Indian Railway is giving a huge thrust to the IT industry especially in connecting systems with smart grid and Internet of Things (IoT). This is a good sign for Gujarat which is an industrious state, but my suggestion is that the plan should include IT component like IoT and smart grid.”
‘Cargo connectivity will help us reach new markets’
Meena R Kaviya, director of Association of Apparel Manufacturers and Exporters of Gujarat (AAMEG) and Chairperson of GCCI’s textile committee, said, “Indian Railway connects India’s huge population so size of the population should be considered in any plan. Usually we replicate western systems but they end up failing.” She added, “The plan is a welcome move for the industry. Also, there are many hitches in the handling of cargo sent by rail and the process is long, which is why businesses opt for road network. Improving cargo connectivity by rail will help us reach new markets and broaden our base.”