Railway Minister Piyush Goyal wants railway modernisation work to be carried out on a priority basis.


Ne w Delhi: Faced with the 2022 deadline, the Narendra Modi government has expedited big-ticket rail infrastructure projects, prominent among them being the dedicated freight corridor (DFC) and the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project. The government has set the August 2022 deadline for the bullet train projects, while the dedicated freight corridor, which has already missed several deadlines, is likely to be commissioned in phases by this year-end.

In a high-level review meeting, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal also instructed his ministry to carry out the rail modernisation works, tracks renewal and electrification works on a priority basis. The Ministry of Railways has set a target to complete electrification of the railway network across the country. Also, by this year, all rail tracks have to be converted into broad gauge.

A senior ministry official said: “It has been decided to open the Bhaupur and Khurja sections of the DFC by November this year. This will ease train movement on the super saturated rail corridor between Kanour and New Delhi by shifting of goods train to the dedicated freight corridor.” Officials said the DFC will not only help run passenger trains with improved punctuality, but also give additional time for track and other asset maintenance required for train safety.

DFC is a UPA-era project that was envisaged to reduce travel time for both passenger and goods trains on the country’s most congested routes—Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Kolkata. The project missed several deadlines and was to be made operational by 2019. The Rs 81,459 crore project had received approval from the Union Cabinet in 2006, but progress continued at a snail’s pace owing to multiple hurdles, including land acquisition rows in several states.

Last year on 30 December, the Ministry of Railways had begun a trial run on the 306-km-long section, from Madar in Rajasthan to Kishangarh Balawas in Haryana, of the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor. The section is equipped for heavy haul train operations with a 25-tonnne axle load for the first time in India (currently practised only in the US, Canada, Brazil, Australia, China, Russia, South Africa and Sweden-Norway).

While the Eastern DFC covers a distance of 1,856 km from Ludhiana in Punjab to Dankuni, near Kolkata, passing through UP, Bihar, Haryana, and Jharkhand, the Western DFC will cover 1,504 km from Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust near Navi Mumbai to Dadri in UP, passing through Vadodara, Ahmedabad, Palanpur, Phulera and Rewari.

These projects had also found mention in the BJP’s manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls where the party had also categorised the projects to be completed by 2022. The BJP has promised spending Rs 100 lakh crore on infrastructure projects by 2024.

Similarly, the Ministry of Railways has instructed the National High Speed Rail Corporation Corridor Limited to expedite work on the country’s first bullet train project which is also stuck in land acquisition rows in Maharashtra. The 508-km corridor will pass through  Gujarat and Maharashtra and the Union Territory of Dadra & Nagar Haveli. While in Gujarat, 60% land acquisition is complete, in Maharashtra, the project had in the past seen protests.

In Maharashtra, the train will pass through the twin districts of Palghar and Thane before entering Mumbai. The corridor starts from the Bandra-Kurla Complex in Mumbai and ends in Ahmedabad, and the journey is expected to take a little over two hours.

Sources said work may further get stalled as Maharashtra will go to the polls this yearend and the model code of conduct will come into force in three or four months from now.

“As of now, joint measurement surveys (JMS) are underway,” said an official with the National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL), which is implementing the project. The governments at the Centre and Maharashtra intend to complete the land acquisition before elections are announced.

Nearly 73 villages in Palghar and 22 villages in Thane are to be acquired. This accounts for over 350 hectares of land. Once the JMS is completed, the NHSRCL will undertake further steps, official sources said.