With the commissioning of the 51-km stretch between Durgawati and Sasaram on the Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor, Adesh Sharma, Managing Director of Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India (DFCCIL), has reasons to sound positive. He tells Bilal Abdi that fast-tracking of operations led to a five-fold jump in the pace of physical work in FY16 and how DFC has ushered in a technological revolution of sorts, be it the mechanised laying of tracks or use of drones for project monitoring. Excerpts from the interview:
What is the total worth of contracts awarded on both the corridors and by when will all the contracts be tendered out?
During FY16, contracts worth Rs 24,000 crore were awarded as against Rs 13,000 crore of contracts during the previous six years taken together. It is clearly a quantum leap. You need to keep in mind the fact that this is a very tedious process. We need to hold eight consultative meetings with our lenders before awarding contracts which are based on global tender standards; a lot of due diligence and scrutiny takes place before it is done.
In toto, around Rs 47,000 crore worth of contracts have been awarded to date; another Rs 10,000 crore of them will be done before July this year. The balance, worth about R4,000 crore, will be awarded before the end of FY17 fiscal. All system and civil contracts will have been signed by the end of this fiscal year.
What is the current state of land acquisition and has physical work commenced on the corridors?
Our land acquisition is at an advanced stage; actually, unless we acquire 80% of the land, we cannot award any contracts. Out of the 11,400 hectares needed for both the corridors, we had acquired 89% of the land by the end of FY16. At places where the acquisition was held up, we were able to acquire 124 patches measuring about 165 km in length last fiscal.
Civil work is in full swing on the Khurja-Sonnegar stretch and system work has commenced on the Khurja-Kanpur stretch of the Eastern corridor. On the Western corridor, ground work is at an advanced stage on the Rewari-Palanpur stretch, design work has commenced on the Palanpur-Vadodara section and is at an advanced stage on the Vadodara-Vaitar stretch. Progress in physical work improved five-fold in FY16 as compared to the previous fiscal year.
What has been your CAPEX spending to date?
We have spent around Rs 21,800 crore up to FY16. The total cost of both the corridors works out to R81,459 crore, of which Rs 73,392 crore is the cost of construction and the remaining the cost of land; the cost of land is being borne by the Indian Railways. Of the Rs 73,392 crore needed for construction, we have got JICA funding of R38,722 crore for the Western corridor in the form of a soft loan. The Eastern corridor is being funded by the World bank which is providing Rs 18,121 crore. The loans from JICA and the World Bank have been fully tied up.
What kind of new technology is DFC using for the project?
We have introduced mechanised laying of tracks, the first of its kind in India. By using the new track construction machines, we are able to lay 1.5 km of tracks per day as compared to 100 m per day when done manually.
We have also come out with 260 m rail lines which help decrease the number of points where you need to weld the track. This boosts the quality and safety of tracks besides reducing wear and tear. One of the major
highlights of this project is that both the corridors will be completely electrified, reducing our carbon print.
Also, since most of the accidents happen on level crossings, we have done away with level crossings. We are also introducing double-stack container freight trains on the Western corridor.
There has been some talk of DFC using drones for monitoring purposes. Can you elaborate?
Project monitoring is a very regular and tedious process. DFC has started using, on a pilot basis, drones to monitor physical work. To date, we have employed drones to monitor work on around 56 km on the Eastern corridor and around 42 km on the Western corridor. The results are very positive; it saves us a lot of resources and key officials in different regions get to monitor the progress together.