3 Months agoUpcoming Dedicated Freight Corridors will play a major role in India's economic development. A closer look.
Spanning 66,030 route km, India’s rail network is the third-largest in the world. Further, India is the fourth-largest carrier of freight globally.1 Daily, Indian Railways carries 23 million passengers on 12,000 passenger trains while its 7,000 freight trains transport 3 million tonnes of freight.2 Over 90% of coal utilised in the country is transported by the rail network.3 Undeniably, the sector plays a critical role in the development of the economy.
DEDICATED FREIGHT CORRIDORS
‘Dedicated Freight Corridors’ are planned to be ‘freight-only’ corridors which will make it cheaper, faster, and more reliable to move goods between industrial heartlands in the North and ports on the Eastern and Western coasts. These freight-only railway lines along congested transport corridors were envisaged to ramp up the average speed of freight, which had reduced considerably to 20 kmph.
The conceptualisation of Dedicated Freight Corridors can be understood clearly as one delves into Indian Railways’ freight operations scenario in the past. It was majorly the Golden Quadrilateral, linking the four metropolitan cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Howrah and its two diagonals (Delhi-Chennai and Mumbai-Howrah) comprising 16% of the route, that carried over 52% of passenger traffic and 58% of freight traffic. This made the trunk routes highly saturated, with line capacity utilisation reaching as high as 150%. Thereby, these freight corridors were proposed to ensure a more reliable, economical and faster transportation of goods.
The cost for these Dedicated Freight Corridors along the Eastern and Western routes, spanning 3,360 route km, has been estimated at USD 12 Billion. With overall progress of over 35% achieved so far, these corridors seek to bring a paradigm shift in Railway Freight Operations in the country, thus providing relief to the heavily congested Golden Quadrilateral.
A Special Purpose Vehicle, ‘Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Limited’ (DFCCIL) has been setup under the Ministry of Railways to facilitate the functioning of these corridors.
To resolve the increasing need for road decongestion, accident reduction and ensuring energy security, the Government has launched this initiative to aid growth of rail transportation in India. The corridor will be built along the Golden Quadrilateral that connects Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Howrah and its two diagonals (Delhi – Chennai and Mumbai – Howrah) that constitute a total of 10,122 kms. These corridors carry the heaviest traffic and are highly congested.4
With the construction of these Freight Corridors, Indian Railways will open new avenues for investment and greater economic development. This will also lead to the construction of industrial corridors and logistic parks along these routes, thereby making the industrial ecosystem more competitive.
The new corridors will permit the trains to carry higher loads, in a more reliable manner. These lines are also being built to maximise speeds to 100 km/hour, up from the current average freight speed of 20 km/hour. They will carry a capacity of 6,000 to 12,000 gross tonne of freight trains. Additionally, the DFCs will also reduce transit time from freight source to destination.5
EASTERN DEDICATED FREIGHT CORRIDOR
The 1,856-km long Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor will be divided into two segments:
- An electrified double-track segment of 1,409 km between Dankuni in West Bengal and Khurja in Uttar Pradesh
- A single line segment of 447 km between Ludhiana – Khurja – Dadri
The Corridor will pass through Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. 83% of contracts have already been awarded.
This project is expected to benefit the transportation of coal for power plants, steel, food grains, finished steel and cement. The total traffic in ‘up’ direction is likely to reach 116 million tonnes and 28 million tonnes in ‘down’ direction in 2021-22, a significant part of which would get diverted to the Dedicated Freight Corridor.6
In addition, Logistics Parks have also been planned in Kanpur and Ludhiana. These parks will be built by a public – private partnership and will boast of best-in- class infrastructure, in addition to a well-connected road and rail network.7
WESTERN DEDICATED FREIGHT CORRIDOR
Covering a distance of 1,504 km, from JNPT to Dadri via Vadodara-Ahmedabad- Palanpur-Phulera- Rewari, Western DFC will pass through Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. It is proposed to join the Eastern Corridor at Dadri. All contracts for the corridor have been finalised and are in progress.
The Western Corridor primarily comprises of container traffic from JNPT and Mumbai Port in Maharashtra and other ports, including Pipavav, Mundra and Kandla in Gujarat. This corridor also facilitates transportation of fertilisers, food grains, iron and steel and cement, among other commodities.8 The share of container traffic is expected to increase and reach a level of 80% by 2021-22. Further, the rail share of container traffic on this corridor is set to increase from 0.69 million TEUs (Twenty- foot Equivalent Units, an inexact unit used for describing cargo capacity) in 2005-06 to 6.2 million TEUs in 2021-22.9
There are plans to set up Logistics Parks on the outskirts of Mumbai, especially near Kalyan- Ulhasnagar area or Vashi – Belapur. Additionally, other parks have been proposed in Vapi, Ahmedabad and Gandhidham in Gujarat, Jaipur and Delhi – National Capital Region. These locations have been chosen since they are significant production centres and support industries. They are also easily accessible by rail and road networks.10
THE ROAD AHEAD
The Ministry of Railways has plans to build four more Dedicated Freight Corridors. The DFCCIL has been assigned the task to conduct preliminary engineering and traffic survey for the proposed projects. Next in line are East – West Corridor (Kolkata – Mumbai) which will be approximately 2,330 route km in length; North – South Corridor (Delhi – Chennai) of approximately 2,343 route km; East Coast Corridor (Kharagpur-Vijaywada) close to 1,100 route km; and the Southern Corridor (Chennai - Goa) of approximately 899 route km.11
The commissioning of the DFC projects will not just help in revitalising the freight transport in the country, but will also ensure an efficient, reliable and economical movement of goods. The project is also likely to result in a significant reduction in the emission of greenhouse gases and save over 450 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in first 30 years of operation.12