Timely completion is critical
There is a joke doing the rounds in the industry circles and it goes like this: the last time the Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe was here in India, Indian Prime Minister Modi took him to Varanasi where travel and rituals took up four hours of the visiting guest. At the end of the function, Abe seemed to have quipped to his counterpart, people have so much time to spare, why do they need bullet train? In the wake of the announcement of the bullet train becoming a certainty, we ask the same question that do we need a bullet train connecting Mumbai and Ahmedabad at a cost of $17 billion? The reason, ostensibly, for this high speed rail is to ensure travel is easy for people moving between these cities for business. By this virtue, the dedicated freight corridor is no different from the passenger train. One facilitates business and the other carries goods facilitated by business. The two DFCS envisaged in the east and west - being funded by JICA - were hailed as key infrastructure projects to drive economic growth.
The benefits of the freight corridors are too many to list here, but trains on the exclusive rail and road corridors will move at a speed of 100kmph once ready from a painful 25kmph now. This means the freight trains too will make it to Delhi in a day from Bombay.
For almost five years now these corridors have been postponed, revisited with routes being altered many a time. Planned to be functional by 2018 originally, some say these projects might not see the light of day until 2022. Reason: Undue demands made by local civic and railway regional heads to acquire land and execute the project in stretches. The 4th terminal in JNPT would perhaps be unable to deliver on its potential fully because of the problems caused by the railways in clearing just 450 metres of a line. How then does government envisage that the high-speed rail project to be completed in the next five years?
These delays lead to cost escalation. DFCS are key to doing business easily in India. Their timely execution will ensure it becomes Modi government’s legacy just like national highways became Vajpayee’s government’s. It will also play a lead role in transforming the railways from a loss making operation to an efficient and profitable venture. When Modi announced he would hasten the DFC projects, there was hope that freight operations were being treated at par with passenger train services. But with the latest announcement, the trade community will be left to lick its wounds again.
DFCS timely execution will ensure they become Modi government’s legacy just like national highways became Vajpayee’s government’s.
R Ramprasad Editor and Publisher email@example.com