Power, rail ministry to fast-track connectivity to coal-bearing areas

Written by Rajat Arora | New Delhi | Updated: Jun 13 2014, 06:56am hrs
With the availability of coal to power plants being very stressed, the power and railway ministries have decided to fast-track the rail connectivity projects to coal-bearing areas in central and eastern India.

Railway minister Sadananda Gowda and power minister Piyush Goyal held a meeting with the Railway Board on Thursday and told the railways to put in place an integrated plan to fast-track all the rail connectivity projects, in which stakeholders Coal India and NTPC are part-investors.

These rail lines entailing an investment of R10,000 crore can potentially boost Indias coal output by a massive 300 million tonnes, given that the transportation bottlenecks hamper development of potentially rich coal mines in these areas. Most of these lines are expected to be operational by 2016.

These lines have been stuck due to issues like forest clearances, land acquisition and law and order problems. We need better coordination to clear all these projects. We'll be working towards it, a senior railway board official said.

While the new rails to pitheads will be built in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Odisha, NTPC will be extending some of these lines to its upcoming power stations along the east coast.

Coal Indias output for FY14 was 462 mt and it accounts for 80% of Indias total production of the fuel.

Coal India has long argued that it may have to settle for an annual output growth of 30 million tonnes over the next few years if rail connectivity to pitheads is not improved. Many potentially rich coal mines remain under-utilised for lack of connectivity.

The coal stock at the pithead has come down from 75 million tonnes to 57 million tonnes and it will be further go down once the projects start getting operational by 2016, the Railway Board official added.

Given its unhealthy operating ratio of 90%, the railways has limited ability to increase its capital spend and, hence, the innovative method of customer-funded lines to give a better connectivity to the industry. Nearly 60% of the proposed connectivity projects will be funded by Coal India and NTPC.

Railways subsidiary Ircon International, the Chhattisgarh government and South Eastern Coalfields have recently formed a joint venture to develop two rail corridors at a cost of about Rs 4,000 crore. Corridor-I or the the East Corridor will be about 180 km from Bhupdevpur-Gharghoda-Dharamjaigarh up to Korba. Corridor-II or the East-West Corridor from Gevra Road to Pendra Road through Dipka, Katghora, Sindurgarh and Pasan runs 122 km.