In order to speed up goods traffic and ease the burden on existing rail tracks between Howrah and New Delhi, the work on the first phase of the 1,856-km Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor that runs through six states will be completed by August 2018, officials said.
"The first phase of the work on the Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor will be completed by August 2018," Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation (DFCC) Managing Director Anshuman Sharma told IANS during a visit to Aligarh to view the progress of the work on the 345-km-long stretch of the corridor between Kanpur and Khurja.
He said that 300 km of track work has been completed on the stretch, adding that, thereafter, work on the Kanpur-Mughalsarai 402 km second phase will be completed by December 2019.
The corridor, being laid at a cost of Rs 30,358 crore (about $5 billion) and scheduled for completion by 2020, will eventually run from Ludhiana in Punjab and, after passing through Haryana, will be joined by a spur from Dadri in Uttar Pradesh -- the closest point to national capital New Delhi -- before proceeding through Bihar and Jharkhand and terminating at Dankui in West Bengal. Its longest stretch of 1,058 km will be in Uttar Pradesh.
Earthwork is also under way on the Ludhiana-Khurja section to first flatten the ground and then compact it before the rails are laid.
Sharma said that the DFCC is, for the first time, using most advanced machines for completing the work on time.
"For the first time we are using the New Track Construction (NTC) machines which can lay around 1.5 km railway tracks in a day," Sharma said.
Earlier around 60-70 persons were required for laying 1.5 km of track and that too in around 15-20 days.
"About 60-70 people could lay only 200-300 metres of track in a day, but through this specially designed machine we can lay around 1.5 km of tracks a day," he said.
"Only 10-12 people are required to work on the highly mechanised machine," he said, adding this makes for greater accuracy and efficiency.
Thanks to the NTC machine, it is now possible to lay rails of 260 metres -- 12 metre sections welded together -- instead of the current practice of 12 metre rails with plates, nuts and bolts.
"The rails are welded with the flash-butt method, also on an imported machine," Sharma said.
Three NTC machines have been imported from the United States and each machine cost around Rs 40 crore each. For the Kanpur-Khurja section, the machines have been imported by Tata Projects Ltd., a joint venture between Tatas and the Spanish firm Aldesa and to whom the work has been contracted.
Talking about the other work on the corridor, Sharma said: "A total of 77 major bridges and 1,107 minor bridges have been completed by November 2017 and work on 125 major bridges and 352 minor bridges is in progress."
"We have also completed a 3.06-km-long bridge on the Sone river in Bihar," he added.
The DFCC MD also said that once the corridor is operational, train speeds will also increase.
"Currently the average speed of a goods train is about 25 kmph. Once the construction is complete, the speeds will increase up to 65-70 kmph," he said, adding that the maximum speed could also be increased to 100 kmph.
"Beside increasing the speed, the corridor will also have a Train Protection and Warning System (TPWS) for safety," he said.
The Eastern Corridor, as also the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor that is simultaneously being developed, will also help speed up passenger trains on the Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata golden quadrilateral as they will absorb about 70 per cent of the existing freight traffic on the two routes.
"The average speed of passenger trains on Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Howrah corridors will increase by 25 kmph. The railways plan to operate trains at speeds of 160 kmph on the two most saturated corridors in the country," Sharma said.
According to railway officials, the Delhi-Mumbai corridor is operating at 115 per cent capacity and the Delhi-Howrah corridor at 150 per cent capacity.
Talking about the delay in the project, which was approved in 2005, Sharma said, "The work was delayed due to arbitration cases filed by the farmers over compensation issues in different courts. But we have been able to sort out such problems."