Dedicated Freight Corridors Completion May be Pushed Beyond 2022

Indian Railways has identified delays in both the eastern and western dedicated freight corridors and revised the deadline for completing them to 2022 from 2021, according to officials.

Following concerns raised by the Prime Minister’s Office over delays in the completion of dedicated freight corridors (DFCs), the Indian Railways has cited “poor progress of work” by contractors and raised concerns over law and order and delays in construction by some states, according to people aware of the developments.

The railways’ DFC project implementing arm, Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Limited (DFCCIL), in an internal report, has cited slow progress of road over bridge (ROB) approaches. It has also pointed towards law and order issues in some districts as an area of concern for the delay in the eastern corridor.

In the western corridor, DFCCIL also mentioned slow progress citing “slow acquisition of land for approaches.”

DFCCIL, in its observation, identified delays by the following contractors: GMR group, Alstom, Beijing National Railway Research & Design Institute of Signal & Communication, Tata projects, Hitachi and Texmaco rail & engineering limited. The railways citied “inadequate mobilization” as of the reasons for delays, followed by “slow pace of work” by the contractors and cash flow issues.

“The project is monitored on a weekly basis now. Another meeting is scheduled to be chaired by Railway Minister Next Monday (31st August 2020) with all stakeholders. Railways would listen to all. If contractors are unhappy, we can’t be happy; idea is to take all with you.

However, the railways will not tolerate any slippages in timelines of the contracted works. Action would be taken against any entity causing delay in the project of such importance. This strict monitoring is for all the working parties involved including entities in railways. Rules of monitoring is applicable for all,” a spokesperson for the railway ministry said.

A spokesperson for the GMR Group said: “Despite the adverse effect of Covid, which has impacted availability of manpower, raw material and other resources, due to support from government agencies, we have overcome it to large extent over the last few month.”

A spokesperson for Alstom said the company has completed 90% of the work awarded to it.

“As the only company to have fast-tracked the execution of electrification and signalling on key stretches of EDFC, the 200 km section of 102/103 (Bhadan to Khurja), completed by Alstom in 2019 has enabled successful run of over 1250 fully loaded freight trains. This also makes it the only electrified section of DFC in the country… In all, we have completed 90% of our scope of work on the EDFC project and are on track to complete rest of the work at the earliest. We expect that very soon, the entire 345 km freight corridor from Bhaupur-Khurja will be fully functional… Due to the scale and complexity of the project, there have been persistent ongoing challenges which impacted the speed of execution. While COVID-19 slowed down the progress, with Unlock 1.0, our teams restarted with an undeterred spirit following all necessary permissions and kept safety as a priority by adhering to protocols. Despite all the unprecedented challenges, Alstom has only accelerated the pace of the project. As on date, we have more than 900 employees on site, working round the clock to deliver as per timelines. We also accord highest priority to maintain safe conditions at site, absorbing all additional costs, considering the significance that we attach to this project,” the spokesperson said.

Apart from the review of the DFC on August 31 with the contractors, the railways will also hold a review with state government officials of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat and Maharashtra on 1st September 2020.

“A review meeting was held on the DFFCIL and Shri (Piyush) Goyal directed the DFFCIL management team to take necessary steps to speed up the project to compensate the loss of time due to lockdown during Covid-19,” DFCCIL said.

Arindam Guha, Deloitte India’s partner, said: “There are also issues around land acquisition and encroachments which are adversely impacting progress in certain stretches.”