Indian Railways to lay 4,100 Km of Tracks; Northern Coalfields to Invest Rs.6,000 Crore

KOLKATA: The Indian Railways has set a target of laying 4,100 km of tracks in financial year 2018-19 that includes 1,000 km of new lines, another 1,000 km of gauge conversion and 2,100 km of track doubling according to Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain.

He added that the ministry is meeting with its state level counterparts on a regular basis to solve issues of land acquisition, wild life and forest – clearances, utility lines and law and order.

The Railways’ capacity for taking up newer projects has significantly increased after a loan of Rs 1.5 lakh crore from the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) of India.

The daily rate of commissioning tracks has also gone up 7.75 km per day in 2015-16 to 7.82 km in 2016-17 but went down to 5.1 km per day in 2017-18. The projected rate for 2018-19 is 11.23 km per day.

Simultaneously, public sector undertaking (PSU) Coal India Limited’s (CIL) subsidiary Northern Coalfields will invest Rs 6,000 crore jointly with the railways in laying new tracks as well as double existing tracks in Madhya Pradesh.

CIL expects the investment would help them transport and additional 15 million tonnes of coal. There are 11 coal fields in Madhya Pradesh’s Moher Basin operated by Northern Coalfields.

Northern Coalfields has 11 operational mines in Moher Basin of Madhya Pradesh’s Singrauli district. The mines are surrounded by power plants of NTPC, Lanco and state-owned power companies with aggregate capacity of 14,400 MW. More than half of the coal produced at these mines is delivered to these power plants through dedicated rail tracks. The country’s upcountry consumers are expected to get about 32 million tonnes of coal this year.

A senior Northern Coalfields’ executive said the company has decided to invest about Rs 1,150 crore this year in expanding its production capabilities. “The plan is to expand production capability so that we can send more coal once the railway expansion projects are complete,” the executive said.

The plan includes doubling the production capacities of its Jayant and Dudhcihua coal blocks to 20 million tonnes per annum. Expansion projects also include jacking up Bina coal blocks’ production capacity from 7.5 million tonnes to 10.5 million tonnes.

Once the railway projects are complete, the company hopes to send about 47 million tonnes of coal to consumers outside its pithead Coal supplies should start moving at greater speed shortly as a number of key projects are reaching the final stage of completion. The isolation of some vast coal reserves in Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh is to end soon. There will be a quantum jump in coal evacuation logistics in two years. Accordingly to CIL, the Bilaspur-based South Eastern Coalfields and the Sambalpur-based Mahanadi Coalfields will contribute half of the production growth; the Ranchi-based Central Coalfields (CCL) and the Singrauli-based Northern Coalfields (NCL), will also contribute significantly.

The recently completed 53-km Jharsuguda-Barapali rail-link connecting Ib-Valley reserves in Sundargarh district of Odisha will play a crucial rule in enhancing supplies. The 45-km Tori-Shivpur line, which will facilitate coal transportation from large Magadh and Amrapali reserves by rail and road, will be completed by December. In Chattishgarh, the 90-km Kharsia-Dharamjaygarh link will also be partly operational in December.

The second project is by Indian Railways, and it includes doubling and electrification of tracks between Shaktinagar and Kerala at an estimated investment of Rs 541 crore. The project is expected to be completed by March 2020.

“Once electrification of all tracks in the area is complete, our ability to send coal to northern India will increase by around 20%,” said a senior executive of Northern Coalfields.

The railways have also undertaken a project to double tracks between Katini and Singrauli at an investment of Rs 2,085 crore. It has also taken up a project to double tracks between Singrauli and Ramni at an investment of Rs 2,675 crore. Both projects are expected to be completed by March 2020, by which time its production capabilities would have increased to sell more coal to upcountry customers.