The Ministry of Railways, under the direction of the Indian Government, has taken up the dedicated freight corridor (DFC) project. The project involves the construction of six freight corridors traversing the entire country. The purpose of the project is to provide a safe and efficient freight transportation system.

Initially, the construction of two freight corridors – the Western DFC connecting the states of Haryana and Maharashtra, and Eastern DFC connecting the states Punjab and West Bengal – is being undertaken. The combined length of the Western and Eastern DFCs will be about 2,800km. The total cost of the project, which is expected to be completed by 2017, is estimated at $10bn.

The other four corridors include North-South (Delhi-Tamil Nadu), East-West (West Bengal-Maharashtra), East-South (West Bengal-Andhra Pradesh) and South-South (Tamil Nadu-Goa). These four corridors are still in the planning stage.

In 2006, the Government of India established a dedicated body, the Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India (DFCCIL), to implement the project. The DFCCIL will build the eastern and western corridors simultaneously in three phases. Construction work on phase I of the project, which includes the 105km Sonnagar-Mughalsarai section of the Eastern DFC, began in February 2009.

The DFC project is expected to reduce congestion at various terminals and junctions. It will provide the efficient and fast movement of freight along the corridor.

“The Railway minister’s resolution not to acquire the land forcibly is posing hindrance to the project.”

The project is currently facing land acquisition problems. The total land required for the corridor is 11,180ha, but so far the DFCCIL has notification only for 5,000ha across eight states. The final notice for the possession of land under section 20E of the Indian Railways (Amendment) Act gives power to acquire land for projects of national importance. Approximately 6,000ha of land has been notified by DFCCIL under this section.

However, the Railway minister’s resolution not to acquire the land forcibly is hindering the project and forcing the DFCCIL to re-examine the alignment of corridors. This may result in time and cost over-runs, and freight choking on both the corridors.

The bidding process for the eastern corridor, which was scheduled for May 2010, was also postponed.

Dedicated freight corridor project

The DFC project was first proposed in April 2005 to address the needs of the rapidly developing Indian economy. The existing quadrilateral railway network, also known as the Golden quadrilateral, which links the major metropolitan cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, is unable to support the growing demand due to capacity constraints. A dedicated freight corridor was, hence, required to address these concerns.

Several large coal mines and steel production facilities are located along the proposed Eastern DFC line. Container traffic is similarly predominant along the Western DFC route, arriving mainly from the Jawaharlal Nehru Port (JNPT). By 2022, the port is expected to handle 5.29 million 20ft-equivalent units of container traffic.

In January 2006, RITES, an engineering consultancy set up by the government, submitted a feasibility report for the two corridors. RITES proposed the route and length of the corridors. The Eastern DFC will be 1,279km and will run from Ludhiana in Punjab to Dankuni in West Bengal, while the Western DFC will run for 1,483km from Dadri in Haryana to JNPT in Maharashtra.

The project will be executed in several phases. Phase I includes a 920km segment of the western corridor between Rewari in Haryana to Vadodara in Gujarat. The 105km Sonnagar (Bihar) to Mughalsarai (Uttar Pradesh) section and the 710km Mughalsarai to Khurja (Uttar Pradesh) segment of the eastern corridor are also part of phase 1.

“The existing quadrilateral railway network is unable to support the growing demand due to capacity constraints.”

The project will be financed in a 2:1 debt-equity ratio. About 67% of the construction costs of the Western DFC will be funded by a soft loan of $4bn provided by Japan International Cooperation Agency. The remaining funds will be provided in equity by the Ministry of Railways. The Eastern DFC will be constructed through funds received from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

The World Bank will finance the 725km section between Khurja and Mughalsarai while the remaining portion between Ludhiana and Khurja will be funded by a loan from the Asian Development Bank and the Ministry of Railways.

The contract for the construction of the 105km Sonnagar-Mughalsarai section was awarded to Gurgaon-based C&C Constructions in December 2008. Another contract for the construction of 54 bridges on the Western DFC was awarded to Hyderabad-based Soma Enterprises.

The Sanehwal-Khurja section on the eastern corridor will be tendered on design-build basis. Two contracts will be awarded – one for the civil structure and track works, and the second for the system works. The corporation has invited bids for the contracts.

Eastern DFC line routes

“The project will be financed in a 2:1 debt-equity ratio.”

The route of the Eastern DFC running from Ludhiana to Dankuni will pass through Asansol, Gomoh, Sonnagar, Mughalsarai, Kanpur, Khurja and Saharanpur. The 426km Ludhiana to Khurja section of the eastern DFC will be a single electrified line, while the rest of the corridor will be electrified automatic double line.

The Eastern DFC’s route had to avoid some major cities and towns due to land acquisition problems. To connect the corridor with major industrial centres, several hubs or junctions will be constructed along the corridor. The junctions will be located in places such as Ganjkhwaja, Jeonathpur, Naini / Cheoki, Prempur, Bhaupur, Tundla, Daudkhan, Kalanaur, Rajpura, Sirhind and Dhandarikalan.

The Dadri to JNPT route of the Western DFC will pass through Vadodara, Ahmedabad, Palanpur, Phulera and Rewari. This section of the corridor will be a double-line diesel track. The corridor also includes another 32km single line from Pirthala to Tughlakabad.

DFC project infrastructure

The eastern DFC will include the construction of 104 bridges, 368 road-over-bridges (ROBs), 189 road-under-bridges (RUBs) and 21 flyovers. It also includes reconstructing nine existing ROBs and extending ten existing RUBs.

The western DFC will include a 4km-long tunnel, 262 bridges, 33 flyovers, 505 ROBs and 200 RUBs. The western corridor also includes the reconstruction of 24 existing ROBs and lengthening ten existing RUBs.

Corridor signalling and communications

Automatic signalling with 2km spacing between signals will be used for both corridors. The Ludhiana-Khurja segment of the Eastern DFC will additionally feature an absolute block system. Traffic control communications on the two corridors will feature an independent OFC system. A GSM-R communication system will be adopted for mobile train radio communication.

DFC rolling stock

The project will use single-stack containers on the Eastern DFC and double-stack containers on the Western. The containers will be driven by electric locomotives on the Eastern DFC and diesel locomotives on the Western. The maximum speed of the locomotives will be 100km/h.