After a prolonged delay due to issues ranging from environmental clearances to land acquisition, work on the Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) projects is on an even keel, with the first stretch of the Western DFC likely to be operationalised by March next year.
The DFCs will increase the average speed of goods trains from the present 25 km per hour to 50-60 km per hour, besides decongesting the Indian Railways’ (IR’s) network.
A 190-km double track between Ateli and Phulera on the Western DFC will be operationalised by March 2018. The entire Western DFC (from Dadri near Delhi to the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust in Mumbai) would be made operational by December 2020. The Eastern DFC (from Mughalsarai to Ludhiana) is scheduled for completion in June 2020. The first stretch on the Eastern DFC will be commissioned by August 2018.
With two machines at work, the average rate of track-laying is around 1.5 km a day at present. Two more machines are likely to be made available by June.
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The Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India (DFCCIL), a special purpose vehicle of the Indian Railways, has the mandate of developing six DFCs across the country, of which the Eastern DFC and the Western DFC are being built at present, with funding assistance from the World Bank and Japan International Cooperation Agency, respectively. The total track length of the two DFCs is around 3,300 km.
The axle load capacity of the DFCs will be 32.5 tonnes, which is 1.5 times that of the Indian Railways. The net tonne km on DFCs will be 40% of that for the IR network, bringing down operation costs drastically. This is expected to help address the problem IR faces of freight rates being kept high to cross-subsidise passenger operations. Subsidy on passenger operations worked out to R30,000 crore in the last financial year. “The only way the railways can increase its revenue is by enhancing efficiencies as neither freight nor passenger fares can be changed,” says D S Rana, director-finance, DFCCIL. Eventually, 70% of the freight traffic on the IR network will shift to the DFCs.
While the Eastern DFC is expected to mostly cater to coal, iron ore, steel, cement, foodgrain and roll-on-roll-off traffic, the Western DFC will ensure container, fertiliser, imported coal, petroleum products, automobile and cement transportation. Traffic on the Eastern DFC is projected to increase from 181.7 MT in 2026-27 to 251 MT by 2036-37, while the corresponding figures for the Western DFC are 203.3 MT-284.3 MT.
Work on the project has also entailed upgrading the feeder routes, i.e. tracks connecting ports, factories, etc, to the DFCs. “This is to ensure that rakes on DFC can enter the feeder routes. Almost 85% of the feeder routes have already been upgraded,” says Rana. In all, 6,000 km of feeder routes will be linked to the two DFCs.
As for the other four corridors, survey work for the projects has been completed. These four DFCs will have a total length of 7,000 km. The South-East DFC, connecting Howrah and Vijaywada, will be taken up next and DFCCIL is trying to tie up funding for the purpose. “The rate of return on this corridor would be around 22% as iron ore freight is high on the route,” says Rana.