From Rishikesh to Karnprayag

Written by RC Acharya | Updated: Dec 26 2012, 09:36am hrs
Though Indian Railways bottom line is under constant threat, its subsidiary Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd (RVNL) has never been short of funds to take up projects to enhance line capacity and improve throughput, thanks to the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank.

Similarly, finances for development of rail infrastructure for strategic regions such as the North-East, J&K and now backward areas such as Uttarakhand are being made available from the central exchequer to lift the economic development of these regions.

With over R10,000 crore worth of 26 project already completed since its inception in 2003, RVNL has a string of 65 projects in the pipeline, the latest and one of the most ambitious being a 125-km-long line to connect Rishikesh to Karnprayag in Uttarakhand.

The cost, roughly estimated at R4,500 crore, may see a substantial rise once the final alignment is worked out after field survey.

The line may be extended beyond, and eventually reach Badrinath, which is 300 km away by road from Rishikesh.

Since the extremely difficult terrain would need a large number of bridges and tunnels, alternative alignments are being explored to curtail cost.

Unlike the other hill railways such as the Kalka-Shimla, Siliguri-Darjeeling, and Mettupalyam- Udhagamandalam, served by a narrow gauge track, the proposed broad gauge alignment may not be able to follow the hills contours as it needs much larger curves (less than 4 degrees) and limited gradients (not more than 1 in 100), resulting in a comparatively larger number of tunnels and bridges. The project will cover the districts of Dehradun, Tehri Garhwal, Pauri Garhwal, Rudraprayag and Chamoli districts of Uttarakhand, with possibly 12 railway stations.

Falling in the Garhwal Himalayan range, the line would cover three distinct topographic units viz. the lower and upper Shivalik ranges, and the lesser Himalayan range (2000-2600m), each with its own unique geological formation, and connected problems of tunneling.

Running almost parallel to the NH-58 for a major part of north bank of the Alaknanda/Ganges, the line would cross south to connect the last four stations, adding substantially to the present rail network of just 344 km in Uttrakhand.

RVNLs other big ticket projectsfour doubling and one electrificationhave also been assured of ADB funding in an agreement in July 2012. The 224-km-long Daund-Gulbarga doubling will meet the transport demands of this backward area now seeing substantial industrial growth while the 201-km Hospet-Tinaighat doubling will help speed up evacuation of iron ore. On the east coast, the 182-km Sambalpur-Titlagarh and 203-km Titlagarh-Raipur doubling will enhance production and movement of coal from this coal-rich region.

Electrification of the 641-km Pune-Wadi-Guntakal section promises to substantially boost the throughput on the Chennai-Mumbai leg of the golden quadrilateral. Apparently all these investments are expected to provide an acceptable rate of return for the ADB to put about R3,000 crore of their money in them.

The author is former member, Railway Board