Dedicated Freight Corridor and Bullet Train Project not to be delayed despite coronavirus crisis: Railway Board

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Railway Board Chairman VK Yadav has shared that the two cardinal projects of the Indian Railways– the Dedicated Freight Corridor and the bullet train project- will not be delayed despite the coronavirus crisis.

This comes at a time when most infrastructure projects in the country are facing delays due to the lockdown, owing to labour shortage and the economic slump.

The Rs 81,000 crore Dedicated Freight Corridor consists of the Eastern DFC, a 1,839-km freight line from Ludhiana in Punjab to Dankuni near Kolkata, West Bengal, and the 1483-km WDFC or western corridor connecting India’s capital Delhi and its economic hub Mumbai. It is the Railways’ single-largest developmental project currently underway,

The agency has completed 56 per cent of its contractual work on WDFC and 60 per cent on EDFC, as per the data provided by DFCCIL on Wednesday.

The completion of the project, scheduled for December 2021, is aimed at decongesting the Railway network by shifting around 70 percent of goods trains to these corridors.

“It was a very good decision on part of the DFCCIL (Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Limited) to keep their labourers in camps around the worksite and providing them with basic amenities thus ensuring that not many of them returned home. This way the work has not stopped, only slowed down a bit, and since there is still time till December 2021 (the deadline), I expect we will not be delayed.”

~VK Yadav,Railway Board Chairman

The DFCCIL said that the lockdown led to a reduction of workers from 40,000 to around 15,000 at their worksites in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra , leading to a delay in the progress of the work.

DFCCIL’s managing director even wrote to the states, to ensure that workers are allowed to move from the camps to the worksites, even arranging e passes for them.

DFCCIL is now overseeing and facilitating the movement of its labourers back to the worksite and in the last month, it has brought around 7,000 highly trained workmen back from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

Officials say that the latest tally is around 22,000 workers at the DFC units.

Apart from this, the other project- the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed corridor — which was to be completed by December 2023 has been facing issues ranging from protests by landowners and rising cost of the project due to the widening gap between the Indian rupee and the Japanese yen. 80% of the Rs 1 trillion required to fund the project will come from a 20-year Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) loan. The Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed corridor project is being implemented by the National High-Speed Rail Corporation (NHSRCL).

According to sources, it has floated 68 per cent of its civil works tenders covering 345 kms out of 508 kms along with a separate tender for fabrication of 28 steel bridges for the high speed corridor in Maharashtra.

According to the NHSRCL, the joint measurement survey of the land needed for the project is almost on the verge of completion.

“In the bullet train project on the other hand, physical work is still to begin. However, the tendering process is on and land acquisition is presently underway,” Mr Yadav said.

“Due to the fact that passenger trains are off the network, there is a lot of track available for freight trains. This year, freight traffic will be 50 per cent more than last years thereby enhancing the Railways’ earnings despite the pandemic. During the lockdown and even currently we are working on our infrastructure to ensure that we remove bottle necks. We have utilised this opportunity to finish 200 of our pending works and utilised the opportunity for multi-tracking, doubling,” he said.

Mr Yadav added that while the Railways’ revenue from passenger traffic has been impacted due to the pandemic, freight loading will increase its earnings by the year end.

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