Dedicated Freight Corridors now set to transform Indian Economy.
A freight train or a ‘maal-gaadi‘ as it is colloquially called, brings back childhood memories of super long trains slowly descending the tracks or mostly standing to make way for the passenger trains. I often used to wonder whether these trains ever reached their destination on time.
Problems associated with present freight movement through railways
A very interesting case came to light some 2 years ago. A wagon carrying fertilizers worth 14 hundred thousand rupees took 4 years to reach its destination! Due to some technical glitch, the said wagon was removed from the train and got sent to the yard. The wagon only came to light on a complaint by the consignee. It might be a one-off incident but the state of freight movement by Indian Railways is not very impressive.
With an average speed of about 22 kilometers per hour, it takes forever for the freight trains to reach their destination. Railways therefore could never become the preferred mode of transportation for the fast-paced requirements of trade and commerce. This painfully slow speed happened for want of a dedicated corridor for freight trains. On the usual tracks, it is the passenger trains that are always given a higher priority. This is why, despite the fairly-low costs and wider reach, railways could never become the preferred mode of transport for couriers or e-commerce companies. Also, cross-subsidization with passenger trains has moved freight transportation costs upwards. As a result, only 27% of the freight movement across India is done via the rail route.
The ambitious Dedicated Freight Corridor Project
With a vision to reverse this trend, the Government of India had come up with an ambitious target to move at least 50%of freight traffic by rail by the year 2030. For this, the government is constructing high speed and high capacity railway tracks dedicated solely to the freight trains. These tracks, called dedicated freight corridors, are exclusively meant for the transportation of goods and commodities.
In the first phase, the government is planning to construct two different branches called the Western and Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor respectively with a combined length of 2843 km. Eastern DFC would connect Sahnewal in Punjab to West Bengal. This leg is being financed by the World Bank. The western DFC would connect Dadri in Uttar Pradesh to Jawaharlal Nehru Port in Maharashtra. This leg is being financed by Japan’s JICA. Three more DFCs are in pipeline. This is therefore being as the largest rail infrastructure being built in independent India. It came at a cost of about 814.59 billion INR.
The project will benefit traders, farmers, industrialists, and even the end consumer by bringing down logistic costs significantly. It will give a major fillip to industries, commerce, and agriculture. In addition to the DFC, industrial hubs, feeder lines, and parcel hubs are also planned to complete the forward and backward linkages. This translates to more employment generation around these corridors.
12,000 HP indigenously produced Electric Locomotives at Madhepura plant in Bihar, multi-engine trains, double-rack containers, 10,000 tons carrying capacity, eco-friendly, significant less carbon emissions, time bound and many others are features which make the Dedicated Freight Corridors unique in the world.
Trains are moving at a speed of 90 kilometers per hour at these state-of-the-art tracks. This would greatly help the industry and commerce. India’s ranking in ease of doing business would also improve.
January 7, 2021. The PM Narendra Modi started the section between New Ateli and New Kishangarh. It is the world’s first double-stack long-haul 1500m long container train.
The existing passenger tracks would be decongested after 70% of the freight trains shift to their dedicated tracks. This would effectively mean a possibility for more passenger trains.
Prime Minister Modi is therefore not wrong when he calls the modern freight corridor a ‘game-changer’ for India in the 21st century. These freight corridors shall become corridors for the rapid development of our country. India has joined a club of few elite countries who have this technology of moving double stack long haul trains at such speeds. India shall join the five-trillion-dollar economy club.