The Indian Railways has undergone a massive transformation over the last decade — it has achieved its best safety record in nearly six decades; the highest ever track renewal in a financial year; has put on the map cities previously inaccessible in India’s northeast; and electrified a large part of its network.
In the 2018 budget, the Narendra Modi government allocated Rs 1.48 lakh crore for the Indian Railways, the highest ever for the national transporter with a nearly 13 per cent increase over the last year. Between 2014 and 2018, it spent nearly Rs 3.82 lakh crore on infrastructure creation, nearly 40 per cent more than Rs 2.3 lakh crore spent by the United Progressive Alliance on capital works between 2009 and 2014.
This record spending has translated into multiple large-scale infrastructure projects being undertaken by the Railways. Here are some of the largest projects that it is currently working on or are in the pipeline for approval:
The Chenab River Bridge
The Chenab rail bridge, which will rise 359-metre high, is being constructed between Bakkal and Kauri towns in the Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir. Once complete, it will be the world's highest railway-arch bridge, nearly 35 metres higher than the Eiffel Tower in France. It is part of the Indian Railways' plan to link the Kashmir Valley to Udhampur and, in turn, with the rest of the country, through the Jammu-Udhampur-Katra-Baramulla rail line. The 345-km-long Kashmir rail link, being executed by the Konkan Railways, is one of the expensive railway projects in India.
The bridge is being built by AFCONS Infrastructure Limited, which is part of Shapoorji Pallonji Group. The company has also worked on the Jammu-Udhampur National Highway, and on the 8.8-km horseshoe-shaped Rohtang tunnel in collaboration with Strabag SE of Austria, among other projects.
This bridge is now the only missing part in the railway link between Jammu city and the Kashmir Valley. It is expected to be complete by 2020.
Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor
The Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor is a 1,856-km long freight specific line connecting Ludhiana in Punjab to Dankuni in West Bengal. The corridor, which will run through six states — Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal, is expected to cater to 144 million tonnes of traffic annually by 2021-22. The corridor will have two segments: a 1,409-km long double-track electrified segment between Dankuni in West Bengal and Khurja in Uttar Pradesh, and a 447-km long single-track electrified segment of 447 km between Khuraj and Ludhiana in Punjab.
In November last year, the Indian Railways completed a 194-km long section of the line between New Khurja (Bulandshahr) and New Bhadan (Firozabad). It expects to complete another 800 km by Match 2020. France-based Alstom has been awarded a contract for the supply of electrification, signalling and a telecommunications system for the Khurja-Kanpur section of the corridor. A joint venture of GMR Infrastructure and SEWS Infrastructure has been awarded a contract for the construction of the 402-km long Kanpur-Mughalsarai section, and a contract for the 302-km long Khurja-Kanpur section has been given to Tata Projects and Aldesa.
Western Dedicated Freight Corridor
This is a 1,504-km long freight specific line connecting the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) in Maharashtra to Dadri in Uttar Pradesh. Running through five states — Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, the corridor is expected to cater to container traffic of 6.2 million 20-foot equivalents, originating from JNPT and Mumbai Port in Maharashtra and ports of Pipavav, Mundra and Kandla in Gujarat, and around 23 million tonnes of other commodities by 2022.
Indian Railways has completed a 306-km long section of the corridor linking Madar (Ajmer) in Rajasthan and Kishangarh (Rewari) in Haryana. It has also completed a trial run on this section of the corridor. A 190-km section of the corridor, which links Ateli in Haryana and Phulera in Rajasthan, had been opened by the Railways last year.
A consortium of Larsen & Toubro and Japan-based Sojitz has been awarded a contract to build the 640-km twin-track section of the corridor. The consortium has also been awarded the contract to supply and install electrification equipment on the 915-km Rewari-Vadodara section of the corridor. Mitsui, IRCON International and Tata Projects, which have formed a consortium called Express Freight, has won a contract for track-laying and civil engineering work on two sectors.
Dallirajhara–Raoghat–Jagdalpur Rail Line
This rail line to the Maoist heartland existed only on paper for three decades. Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently inaugurated a section of the line and passenger train service in the insurgency-infested Kanker district in North Bastar.
This project is being executed in two phases — Dallirajhara to Raoghat, which is 95 km long, and Raoghat to Jagdalpu, which is 140 km long. Rail Vikas Nigam Limited, a public sector undertaking (PSU) under the Ministry of Railways, is working on the Dallirajhara to Raoghat stretch, which is being funded by the Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL).
“Out of total 95 kms two sections, Dallirajhara–Raoghat and Raoghat-Bhanupratappur, 17 kms each has been completed and dedicated to the nation. Work on the remaining section of 60 kms is in progress,” the government has said.
The Raoghat-Jagdalpu stretch of the rail line is being executed by IRCON International, another PSU under the Railways Ministry. The government of Chhattisgarh is providing 10 per cent of the fund required for the project, IRCON will provide 26 per cent, National Mineral Development Corporation 43 per cent and SAIL 21 per cent. These PSUs are investing on the rail link because this project will make transportation of coal and other mineral resources mined in this region easier.
Jiribam-Imphal Rail Line
The Jiribam-Imphal rail line, which will have the world’s tallest girder railway bridge, is being built to bring Manipur’s capital Imphal on India’s railways map. The project is expected to cost the North East Frontier Railways, which is implementing it, around Rs 13,800 crore. The complexity of the project can be gauged from the fact that the 111-km rail link will have at least 149 bridges, and passes through 52 tunnels, including one with the longest safety passage in the country.
Work on the 12.5-km line between Jiribam and Dholakhal has been completed and freight trains have started running on this section. The section between Dholakhal and Tupul is expected to be complete by 2020. Work on the world’s tallest girder rail bridge, located near a town called Noney, is also underway. Contract for the construction of the tunnel with the longest safety passage in the country has been awarded to a joint venture of Hindustan Construction Company and Vensar Constructions Company.
The government plans to extend the Jiribam-Imphal rail line to Moreh, a border town in Manipur, linking India’s broad gauge railway network to that of Myanmar’s. It was in Moreh earlier this month that Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated an Integrated Check Post along the border with Myanmar.
Ahmedabad-Mumbai High Speed Rail Corridor
The Ahmedabad-Mumbai high-speed rail corridor is India’s first bullet train project. The 508-km long corridor, modelled on Japan’s Shinkansen network, will cut the travel time between Gujarat’s financial hub, Ahmedabad, and India’s financial capital, Mumbai, to nearly two hours from about seven hours currently. Trains are expected to run at the speed of 320 km per hour on the corridor.
The project is being executed by the National High Speed Rail Corporation. Apart from providing technical support, Japan is funding the rail project through a soft loan of Rs 79,000 crore at an interest rate of 0.1 per cent, with a tenure stretching over 50 years and a moratorium period of 15 years.
Land acquisition for the high-speed rail corridor is currently underway in Gujarat and Maharashtra. The project requires at least 1,400 hectares of land. Till now, 61 out of 104 villages along the route have given consent for land acquisition. However, the land acquisition work has been running behind schedule. The government had been able to acquire only 21.02 hectares, that is 1.46 per cent of the total land required for the high-speed rail corridor, until 18 December.
This rail project too has multiple firsts. One of these is a 21-km rail tunnel with around 7 km of it under the Arabian Sea.
Work on the project is likely to start in Maharashtra after the monsoon season this year. The government plans to carry out the first trial run on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train corridor before 15 August 2022.
Thiruvananthapuram–Kannur High-Speed Rail Corridor
This is an elevated corridor proposed between Kannur in northern Kerala and Thiruvananthapuram in the southern part of the state. The project had found mention in the Left Democratic Front government’s budget in 2010, and in 2011 the Kerala High Speed Rail Corporation Limited, a joint venture between the Kerala government and the Indian Railways, was designated as the nodal agency for the project. There was no major development related to this project until 2016, when the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation presented a feasibility report on the high-speed corridor.
Preliminary plan says that the 105-km section of the 430-km long line will be underground, 190 km elevated and 130 km at grade. Trains will run at an average speed of 250 km per hour, covering the distance between Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam in little over 20 minutes; Kochi 45 minutes; Kozhikode 90 minutes; and Kannur, two hours. Currently, a train takes 12 hours to reach Kannur from Thiruvananthapuram. If built, it is likely to have a ridership of nearly one lakh per day by 2025-26. The proposed alignment for the corridor is around 4-8 km east of the existing line.
The project may get approval from the Centre this year. However, any movement on this front is unlikely before the Lok Sabha elections.
The rail link between Manali and Leh, which is proposed at the height of 5,360 metres, will be the world’s highest once built. The 465-km line, to be built at a cost of Rs 83,360 crore, is likely to have around 74 tunnels, 124 major bridges and 396 minor bridges. By some accounts, at least 52 per cent of the line will pass through tunnels. It will connect four passes — Rohtang La, Barlacha La, Lachung La and Taglang La, ranging between 3,976 metre and 5,360 metre above sea level. The Indian Railways has completed the first location survey for the proposed line.
Like other railway projects being undertaken in extreme terrain, this project too has many firsts, including India’s first railway station inside a tunnel. The station will be built by the Indian Railways at a height of 3,000 feet inside a tunnel as part of the strategically important line, which will provide an alternate route to the army. It will come up in Keylong, which is the administrative centre of Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal, around 60 km from Manali and 120 km from the Indo-Tibetan border. The tunnel, which will house the station, will be 27 km long.
This project is part of the government’s plan to construct 14 strategic rail lines along India’s border with China, including the 378 km long Missamari-Tenga-Tawang line in Arunachal Pradesh, the 249 km long North Lakhimpur-Bame-Silapathar line in Assam and the 227 km long Pasighat-Tezu-Rupai link.
Stations Redevelopment Project
The station redevelopment project, which had found mention in Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s 2018 budget speech, is aimed at converting 90 important stations in the country into world-class ‘airport-like’ transit hubs. Under this plan, the Indian Railways will renovate station buildings, improve amenities like waiting rooms, retiring rooms, wash rooms, and introduce modular water kiosks, escalators, stainless steel benches, modular catering kiosks, among other things.
Stations such a Tirupati, Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada, Guwahati, Patna, Chandigarh Raipur, Gandhinagar, Surat, Bhopal, Lucknow, Allahabad, Mathura, Varanasi, Ayodhya, and Gorakhpur have been selected for redevelopment.
The Railways has already started working on two stations — Habibganj in Madhya Pradesh’s Bhopal and Gandhinagar, the capital of Gujarat — under the public-private partnership model. Contract for the redevelopment of the Habibganj station has been awarded to Bansal Pathways Private Limited while the Gandhinagar station is being redeveloped by a special purpose vehicle in which the government of Gujarat and the Indian Railway Stations Development Corporation have stakes. Redevelopment work on the Surat station is also likely to begin soon.
Initially, the government planed to lease out the stations to redevelopers for a period of 45 years. The lease period has now been increased to 99 years.
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