Govt may allow private freight train operation on Dedicated Freight Corridors

After going ahead with its decision to allow private operators to run passenger trains on rail tracks, the Indian Railways is exploring the option of opening up the two Dedicated Freight Corridors (DFCs) to private players to run a certain number of trains in a day once these get completed.

The Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation India Ltd (DFCCIL) may allow private operators to purchase some “train path” for this purpose.

Train path is the timing of a possible movement of a train along a given route. The Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation India Ltd (DFCCIL) plans to run 120 trains each way daily on each corridor at 100 kmph. To begin with the government may allow a certain number of trains to be operated by private players. Sources said there had also been discussions in the past whether the entire corridor could be monetised.

However, the delay in completion of the Eastern and Western DFCs have become a cause of concern for the government. Railway ministry’s major plans to run passenger trains by private operators and increasing the speed of express trains to 130 and 160 kmph hinges on the completion of these two corridors.

So far only 500 km out of the 2,343 km of the Eastern DFC and 306 km out of 1,506 km of Western DFC have been completed.

The Covid has also hit the project deadline. For example, the 157 km Bhadan-Bhaupur stretch og Eastern DFC, which was scheduled for completion in March has been pushed to October this year. Similarly, the target for commissioning of 131 km Madar-Marwar stretch of Western DFC has been pushed to December 2020 in place of March this year. Sources said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had raised concern over the delay and following his observation railway minister Piyush Goyal has started holding weekly meetings for stricter monitoring of the progress.

They added non-availability of land for construction of rail over bridges (ROBs) and their approaches in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, poor performance of contractors and court cases have been flagged as the main reasons for the slow progress of the corridors aimed at faster movement of goods at cheaper travel cost. TOI has learnt that the railway ministry has been struggling to get land in Muzaffarnagar, Meerut and Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh, which has impacted about 29 km of the corridor. In Bihar, land acquisition is pending for 29 ROBs and the land acquisition is slow in Gujarat for seven ROBs.

The Centre has also been talking to the West Bengal government for land acquisition for the Sonnagar-Dankuni stretch of Eastern DFC, which has been taken up on PPP mode.

The railway ministry has set a June 2022 deadline for operationalisation of the two Dedicated Freight Corridors (DFCs).