Konkan Railway, which connects the states of Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka, is charting new territory, with the Konkan Railway Corporation Ltd (KRCL) proposing a 103-km-long line between Chiplun and Karad in south Maharashtra. Boost as it will the movement of cargo from ports in Maharashtra, the rail link is expected to yield rich commercial dividends.
The present lack of rail connectivity between the Central and Konkan regions is a serious drawback for power plants in north Karnataka and south Maharashtra which have to source their coal from ports as far away as Mumbai, Krishnapatnam and New Mangalore. Chiplun to Karad via Panvel (near Mumbai) is a distance of 528 km, while via Madgaon (Goa) it is 695 km. The new line will cut travel distance by 425 km as compared to the Panvel route, and 592 km vis-a-vis the Madgaon one. Located in the Ratnagiri and Satara districts, it is expected to directly benefit the districts of Belgaum, Bijapur, Gulbarga, Latur, Parli and Solapur.
The rail link, estimated to cost nearly R3,200 crore, is proposed to be built through the public private partnership (PPP) route. Ideally, the government entity would hold 26% stake in the project with the private party holding the remaining 74%. KRCL has already called for expression of interest from interested parties. “Given the wide ranging benefits that this line will confer on power, cement, steel and other industries that fall on the route, we are hopeful of a good response,” says Sanjay Gupta, director (operations and commercial), KRCL. So far, JSW Ports Ltd, which is developing the Jaigarh Port, has shown interest. KRCL has also approached NTPC for the purpose. The state government has approved a grant of R460 crore for the project, which may increase, says Gupta.
According to a PwC report commissioned by KRCL, bulk cargo traffic on the proposed line would be primarily driven by thermal coal, coking coal, fertilisers and iron ore though it also has potential for general cargo/container and passenger traffic. A total of 14.10 MTPA of bulk cargo traffic is forecast on the Chiplun-Karad line by 2018, on an unconstrained basis.
KRCL has classified the driving factors for traffic commodity wise:
The railway line is expected to see 5-6 MTPA of thermal coal traffic for power plants by 2018, what with a capacity addition of 20GW planned in Maharashtra and Karnataka by 2019.
Thermal coal requirement from cement plants in the hinterland is expected to be another major driver of traffic volumes on the line as, according to the PwC report, a number of cement plants that have been announced or are under construction fall on the route.
Ports on the Konkan coast are expected to receive coal from upcoming plants in Gulbarga and Raigarh as well as existing plants such as JSW plants in Bellary and the JSW Ispat Coal Oven plant in Raigarh.
The total fertiliser consumption in the three regions of southern Maharashtra, northern Karnataka and north west Andhra Pradesh is about 2.66 million tonnes, of which import accounts for around 1.29 million tonnes. According to PwC, the entire import potential for fertilisers is expected to be tapped by the rail link.
The export traffic on the Chiplun-Karad line could reach 1 MTPA by 2018 though there is also a possibility of the cargo being moved through alternative routes.
Benefits to ports
The non major ports on the west coast—Rewas port, Dighi port, Redi port, Vijaydurg port, Jaigad port—are expected to be the prime beneficiaries of the line. Rail connectivity would also enable the ports to attract container traffic from Indian Railways’ fed Inland Container Depots in the hinterland.
On the flip side, the container traffic on the Chiplun-Karad line is not expected to cross 65,000 TEUs by 2018 since 60% of the traffic from north- western ports is likely to move by road in the future and traffic from districts such as Ratnagiri and states like Goa is not expected to use the line.
Benefits to other industries
The Chiplun-Karad line could also prove a boon for other industries in its catchment area, including food processing, textile, paper based, engineering, and sugar industries.