What will be the next big game changer for India in infrastructure sector and will revolutionize transport in India forever ? Though there are many revolutionary projects that the government has undertaken to improve transportation, such as – Sagarmala project (development of ports along the coast of India), development of inland waterways transport, High speed railways, construction of national highways at a faster pace and increasing the density of roads in rural areas – to name a few, Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) is touted to bring next revolution in the transport sector in India [The first such revolution in 21st century was Golden Quadrilateral, initiated by Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee]

Just like the network of world class Highways connecting various cities revolutionised the transport sector in the first decade of the 21st century, the next revolution in transport sector will be brought about by Dedicated Freight Corridor. The Vajpayee government worked on constructing a pan-India network of National Highways on a priority basis and changed the face of road transport in India. Now, Shri Suresh Prabhu is working to create a dedicated freight corridor which will totally change the transport sector, not only in railways but also in roadways. Let me explain DFC, its wide implications and how it will bring a revolution !!. Though DFC is not so hyped and very few people know about it since it doesn’t “directly” involve common people like us, it will change the life of every single citizen of the country who uses any form of transport and push the development of country in every possible way.

So, what is DFC and what are its implications ?

* Currently in India, freights and passenger trains run on same track, causing immense pressure on the existing railway infrastructure. This causes a massive delay in freight services, and also in passenger services in busy routes such as Delhi-Kolkata, Delhi-Mumbai, Kolkata-Mumbai and Delhi-Chennai to name a few.

* Currently, average speed of freight train movement in India is about 25 km/hr only and is among the slowest in the world.

*Since freights and passenger trains use same tracks, there is a limit to both the maximum number of passenger trains as well as freight trains that can run between two cities, thereby severely limiting the capacity to send the goods as well as drastically reducing the capacity of passenger transportation during peak demands. Due to this pressure on infrastructure, a). Passengers don’t get confirmed tickets during peak seasons as Railways cannot run more trains since the tracks are already overburdened to their maximum capacity. b). Similarly, goods transport takes a lot of time (sometimes even 4-5 days between Delhi and Kolkata) due to the tracks being so busy. Since goods trains have a lower priority than passenger trains, they are made to stand at a station for hours allowing passenger trains to pass. Due to this, most of the freight has shifted to roadways, increasing the demand for diesel, increasing pollution and causing huge jams on national highways.

*To solve this problem, Ministry of Railways is constructing Dedicated Freight Corridors, which will be exclusively dedicated for the movement of freight trains.

* The five dedicated freight corridors of total route length 8600 kilometre that are coming up are :
1. EDFC (Eastern dedicated freight corridor), from Dankuni (Kolkata) to Ludhiana. – 1850 kilometre
2. WDFC (Western dedicated freight corridor), from JLN Port Mumbai to Tughlakabad – 1450 kilometre.
3. North-South Freight Corridor, from Chennai to New Delhi – 2200 km
4. East-West Freight Corridor, from Kharagpur to Mumbai – 2000 km
5. East Coast Dedicated Freight Corridor, from Kharagpur to Vijaywada – 1100 km

*Among the 5, work on first two are already going on and are in the later stages of construction, while the other 3 have been sanctioned this year in Rail Budget on a “PRIORITY BASIS”

*The dedicated freight corridor will be an electrified, double track EXCLUSIVELY for the movement of Freight trains (containers, tankers, flatbed rakes and conventional goods rakes).

Why is it such a “revolutionary” step ??

1. It will relieve the pressure from the passenger tracks, thereby increasing the SPEED, CAPACITY and EFFICIENCY of passenger movements. It is expected that once DFC is operationalized, it will put an end to delays, increase the passenger carrying capacity by almost 40% and increase the average speed of passenger trains by 10-15 km/hr.

2. It will increase the average speed of freight movement in the country from 25 km/hr to 70 km/hr (almost 200% increase). Due tot this, all the trucks, lorries and freights being carried on the roads will reduce drastically…. leading to hassle free travel and less jams on roads.

3. The operationalization of DFC will cut down the freight cost by half and will make sending goods by railways much cheaper, bringing down costs, improving ease of transporting which in turn will create more industries in the corridor, thereby providing much needed jobs to the state of Bihar, UP, Jharkhand and West Bengal.

4. The DFCCI (Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India), a corporation run by the Ministry of Railways, India under the leadership of Suresh Prabhu has undertaken this task on war footing and the work is going at an extremely fast pace, with technologically advanced machines laying the tracks day and night. The EDFC is coming up at an amazing pace and is expected to be completed in a few years.

5. DFC will move the freight and goods traffic from roads to electric trains, thereby cutting time, cost, fuel consumption by trucks, reduce pollution and increase the efficiency manifolds. It is expected that operationalization of DFC alone can push the GDP figures significantly.

6. It will ensure quick transport of perishable goods such as fruits, vegetables, milk, etc from one part of India to another. It will give the farm sector a big boost and prevent the damage of thousands of tonnes of perishable items due to lack of efficient and fast long-distance transport of perishable items.

7. To know about this amazing thing, look at this 5 minute short documentary by WORLD BANK on how Dedicated Freight Corridor will bring a revolution in transportation sector in India ! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPWa5IAHfSA)

Kshitij Mohan

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(The author is a passionate railway enthusiast, whose hobby, passion and love is railways. He keenly follows the developments in the fields of railways all over the world. Currently pursuing his Ph.D. from Germany)

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