Phase 1 of Railways’ game-changing Freight Corridor network will be ready by November

NEW DELHI: The first phase of the Rs 81,000-crore dedicated rail freight corridors project is likely to be completed in November.

Once thrown open, the western and the eastern corridors will reduce travel time between Delhi and Mumbai and Delhi and Howrah, the two most congested rail routes in the country, for both passengers and goods. The 1,500-km western freight corridor runs from Dadri near Delhi to Jawahar Lal Nehru Port Trust in Mumbai and the 1,800-km eastern corridor is from Ludhiana in Punjab to Dankuni in West Bengal.

“We’ll be making 432 km part of the western corridor and 343 km of the eastern corridor operational by November,” said Anshuman Sharma, managing director, Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation, an arm of Indian Railways. “All the freight traffic that is currently on the rail routes between Delhi and Mumbai and Delhi and Kolkata would be moved to these corridors in parts to decongest the existing lines.”

The Delhi-Mumbai rail route is highly congested at present because of the high volume of container traffic which slows up the passenger trains. The Delhi-Kolkata rail route, on the other hand, passes through the coal belt of Jharkhand which has a high density of coal carrying trains.

These trains evacuate coal from the mine heads in Jharkhand and bring them to the power plants in northern and western parts of the country. The 3,300 km long corridors being constructed to connect the mainland with the ports on the western and the eastern coasts of the country are scheduled to be fully completed by 2020.

The targeted completion of the project, for which work started in 2010, was 2016-17, but it got delayed because of land acquisition hurdles, environment clearances and the slow pace of Indian Railways and the freight corridor corporation. The progress of the project is now being closely monitored by the Prime Minister’s Office, according to officials.

Indian Railways has already acquired over 98% of the 11,000 hectares of land needed for the project and it will pay nearly Rs 15,000 crore as compensation for the land acquired.

The construction of the western corridor is being fully funded by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, which has provided around Rs 33,000 crore as soft loan. The eastern corridor is being partially funded by the World Bank.

Once operational, the corridors will increase the national transporter’s freight carrying capacity to around 2,300 million tonnes, up from 1,200 million tonnes at present, and help reduce cost of freight transportation.