Jharsuguda-Barapali Rail line may start Operations by June 2016

Kolkata (KOAA): After nearly a decade long wait the 53.5-km Jharsuguda-Barapali rail link in Odisha is expected to be operational in June 2016. Financed by Coal India Ltd (CIL), the rail link will help evacuate fuel from the vast Ib-valley reserves in Sundergarh district.

Originally scheduled for completion in 2009, the project has undergone nearly four-fold cost escalation to approximately ₹2,200 crore. The delay was caused primarily due to land acquisition and green hurdles.

The CIL sources say the rail link will improve coal availability by 20 million tonnes (mt) per annum. In the longer run, the project may help increase coal production by nearly 80 mtpa by helping monetise idle reserves such as Siarmal (50 mtpa), Kuldah (15 mtpa), Garjandhal (10 mtpa), Vasundhara West (8 mtpa) and others.

Major achievement

Jharsuguda-Barapali is part of a total of 323 km track network proposed by the former UPA government to boost coal availability by nearly 300 mt a year.

While the UPA could achieve reasonable progress on Odisha link, other two projects Tori-Shibpur-Hazaribagh (91 km) in Jharkhand and Bhupdeopur-Raigarh-Mand (180 km) in Chhattisgarh, were in early stage of implementation when the Manmohan Singh government was voted out of power in May 2014.

The Narendra Modi government is now pushing for implementation of these rail links through joint venture route (CIL 64 per cent, railways 26 per cent and State government 10 per cent). However, as per latest estimates, even the truncated Tori-Shibpur link is not expected to be operational before 2017. Bhupdeopur-Raigarh-Mand is still in early stages of implementation. The Centre is now pushing CIL to take up a host of such projects through the JV route. These include doubling of the track capacity of the Jharsuguda-Barapali rail link and doubling of the existing link from Jharsuguda to Sambalpur.

Viability of JVs

However, there are question marks over the viability of the JVs as it would primarily benefit railways through higher freight revenues at the cost of CIL’s capital expenditure.

The State contribution is limited in offering land. The contribution of railways is largely limited to technical support.

Lack of financial commitment from Railways is also dogging the CIL plan to buy own wagons. An inter-ministerial committee is now looking at the issue.