Corridors of Progress : Dedicated Freight Corridor

India is a vast country with resources spread across its length and width. In order to exploit these resources from the interiors, the British laid down the tracks of the Railways. 

Post independence, they became the arteries of independent india through which passengers and goods moved, providing growth impetus to all the regions through which the tracks went. 

Dedicated Freight Corridor Project is one such project and is billed as independent India’s largest rail infrastructure being built at 2,483km in length. 

The DFC consists of two arms. The 1,839-km Eastern DFC that starts at Sohnewal (Ludhiana) in Punjab and ends at Dankuni in West Bengal. The other arm is the around 1,500-km Western DFC from Dadri in Uttar Pradesh to JNPT in Mumbai, touching all major ports along the way.

These two arms are important as food grain and fertilisers from the northern region are transported to the eastern and Northeast regions. From East and Northeast, coal, iron ore, jute and petroleum products are transported North and West.

The EDFC route has coal mines, thermal power plants and industrial cities. The WDFC from Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust to Dadri has ports like Mundra, Kandla, Pipavav, Dawri and Hazira. The industrial corridor of Delhi-Mumbai and Amritsar-Kolkata are also being developed around both these DFCs.

The EDFC is being built at a cost of Rs 5,750 crore through a loan from World Bank , the WDFC is being funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated a 351-km section between Khurja and Bhaupur in Uttar Pradesh for commercial operations of the Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) on Tuesday. 

The 351-km section stretches between Khurja, the 12th stop after Sohnewal in the North, to New Bhaupur, near Kanpur. Other stretches are Sohnewal to Khurja (365 km), Bhaupur to Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay (Mughalsarai) (400 km), then to Sonnagar in West Bengal (137 km), then to Dankuni via Gomoh in Jharkhand (538 km).

This section passes through Kanpur Dehat, Auraiya, Etawah, Firozabad, Hathras, Aligarh and Bulandshahr districts in Uttar Pradesh.

There is also a section under construction between Dadri and Khurja to connect the Eastern and Western arms.

This corridor involves building an entire railway network from scratch, independent of the Indian Railways. All the installations are new including the stations. 

Around 70% of the freight trains currently running on the Indian Railway network are slated to shift to the freight corridors, leaving the paths open for more passenger trains and will help decongest the existing Kanpur-Delhi main line of Indian Railways, which currently handles trains at 150% of its line capacity. 

This section currently has over 50 passenger trains and around 60 goods trains jostling for paths daily. The new section means more passenger trains can be pumped in on the Indian Railway main line and those trains can achieve better punctuality.

Tracks on DFC are designed to carry heavier loads than most of Indian Railways. DFC will get track access charge from the parent Indian Railways, and also generate its own freight business. This may lead to more private players jump in to promote a vibrant mode of transportation. 

Freight trains usually suffer from unpredictable running times and low speeds of around 25 km per hour. But on this new section they can run at 50-60 kph as 68 existing level crossings have been eliminated to augment speed, the only major section on Indian Railways that is free from any permanent or temporary speed restrictions. 

This section will also catch the freight traffic originating from key centres such as Kanpur Dehat, Aurayia, Etawah, Firozabad, Hathras, Aligarh and Bulandshahr. The existing industrial areas of Aligarh, Khuja, Firozabad, Agra and Bhaupur will become major growth centres of the area. These areas are agriculture hubs producing potato, paddy and maize. New Makhanpur (Firozabad) and New Daudkhan (Aligarh) will be opened as common user terminals aimed at local farmers in sending their produce to the larger markets.

More sections will keep getting commissioned in the coming months.

These freight corridors will reduce the logistical cost of the railways network, thus influencing the price of the goods. They will also help in increasing the ease of doing business and will attract greater foreign investment. 

In a signal to investors, PM Modi has mentioned that India was moving fast towards the path of becoming a big economic power with focus on modern connectivity through the five wheels of highways, railways, airways, waterways and i-ways. Railway is that wheel which carries the maximum load of passengers and goods combined. These corridors are indeed dedicated corridors of progress. 

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