The Indian Railways has proposed a Rs 4.2 lakh crore mega plan for multi-tracking of seven high density corridors — Delhi-Howrah, Mumbai-Howrah, Delhi-Mumbai, Delhi-Guwahati, Delhi-Chennai, Howrah-Chennai and Mumbai-Chennai — for introduction of faster passenger trains and quicker movement of freight.
In a proposal for the Union Cabinet, the Railway Ministry has said that the Program me spread over the next 10 years, from 2024-25 to 2023-34, will involve doubling and laying of third and fourth line on different stretches of these corridors according to the traffic demand. The plan also includes construction of flyovers and underpasses. The proposal has been circulated at a time when the railways plans to introduce more modern Vande Bharat trains with sleeper facility that have maximum design speed of 220 kmph.
The Railways has identified 213 such projects that need to be undertaken on these corridors, which have breached the saturation point, and 200 such works will be completed in the first phase. For fast-track decision- making, the national transporter has proposed more financial powers to the Railway Board and the minister.
The main reason behind the proposal to pump in huge government investment in the seven corridors is to increase capacity for running more trains. While the combined length of these corridors is 10,969 km and is barely 16% of the entire Indian Railways Network, these cater to 41% of traffic. This has resulted in huge pressure on these corridors, leaving hardly any room for introduction of more trains or increasing their speed.
The Railway Ministry has cited how because of the increased pressure, the average speed of freight trains is around 18-20 kmph while in the developed world, it’s around 50 kmph. It has also flagged how slow movement of freight trains has a direct impact on the logistics cost. The income from freight movement is the Mainstay of Railways’ finances and this revenue compensates the loss that Railways incurs on account of passenger transportation.
The National Transporter has also mentioned in its proposal that the current share of Railways in total freight movement is barely 27% while the share of goods transported by road is nearly 70%. It has said if the share of Railways in cargo transportation increases to 35%, it will help save around 5.2% of the overall logistics cost.
India has set the target to bring down the logistics cost to single digit from the current level of 14%. The Railways has also set the target to double freight movement to 3,000 million tonnes by 2030.