What are dedicated freight corridors?
Indian Railways play a pivotal role in both – the movement of people, as well as, freight transportation. India transports about 3 million tonnes of freight through the railway; on a daily basis, according to a 2017 report by ‘Make in India‘. Rails being a cheaper and more eco-friendly alternative to “by road” means of transporting freight are hugely popular.
Dedicated freight corridors, in a nutshell, are railway paths that are laid down exclusively for transporting freight. The dedicated freight corridors in India are being set up so that goods can be moved between industries to their designated ports. These railway lines have been built across four major transportation routes – together called the Golden Quadrilateral, connecting Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata.
The importance and need for dedicated freight corridors
According to reports released by the Ministry, Indian Railways created a new record in the financial year of 2017-18. The railways transported over 1,160 million tonnes of freight in that year, an all-time high. It has observed a steady growth in freight transportation over the years. As mentioned before, railways provide a cheaper, more efficient alternative for freight transportation. However, the link here is two-way. Railways have also benefitted largely from freight transportation. As of July 2017, of the ten products that the ministry majorly earns from, two-thirds belong to freight. Consequently, these dedicated corridors will act as a massive breakthrough.
The eastern and western corridors, connecting Delhi-Howrah, and Delhi-Mumbai respectively, will be reducing the time travel of these areas significantly, both being the most congested railway routes in India. The corridor will not only reduce the time of transportation but also monetary cost.
Once under operation, the freight corridors are expected to raise the freight carrying capacity of railways by about 1100 million tonnes, reaching to 2300 million tonnes.
The freight trains will boast a 1.5 km length, 3660 mm width, a height clearance of 7.1 meter – the first and only in the world. Moreover, given the reduced time and cost of transporting freight, the DFCs are said to aid the country in getting a competitive edge in the exports market.
The journey so far
After the initial talks in 2005, the Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India was set up in 2006, registered under the Companies Act, 1956. The eastern and western corridors were initiated under the Eleventh Five Year Plan of India (2007-2012). The funding for the remaining 4 DFCs was approved in January 2018- namely the East-West, North-South, East Coast and South-West Dedicated Freight Corridors.
Although officials initially first stated that the entire project will be wrapped up by the 2016-17, and then by 2020, there have been regular delays. Controversies around land acquisition and protests have been a major cause, along with environmental clearances, and a general slow pace.
Despite all, Dedicated Freight Corridors are a huge step in the direction of revolutionising our railways. Acting as the binding force for the golden quadrilateral, it will be a matter of excitement to see how the DFCs roll out.