The non-functional Kuarmunda railway station linking Kolkata to Mumbai through a route across Rourkela is being revived. This is part of a cluster development initiative taken up by 42 sponge iron units surrounding Rourkela.
A new railway siding at an investment of Rs 40 crore (Rs 400 million) is also being set up by the sponge iron units on 50-acres of land around the steel city. The siding is expected to come up with the revival of the Kuarmunda station by mid 2008.
Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services would be providing the financial assistance to the project at interest rates lower than those quoted by banks and financial institutions and other donor agencies.
To carry out the work of setting up of the railway siding and making Kuarmunda railway station functional, the sponge iron units have formed the Rourkela Infrastructure Consortium.
The consortium has opened discussions with the railway authorities for a clearance of its initiatives. The Kuarmunda railway station is lying non-functional for the past six years. According to railway sources, the station became non-functional as railway authorities failed to find the required staff.
"Highly placed railway officials once paid a visit and found none manning the station and then decided to close it down," says a state goverment official.
With the Kuarmunda railway station starting functioning, habitations around Birantrapur-Bondamunda and Rourkela would get linked up. According to sources, the need for the railway siding is mainly due to the transportation of coal and iron ore from Barsua, Joda and Barbil.
The sponge iron units require around 4.5 million tonnes of iron ore and nearly 2.7 million tonnes of coal every year. This is mostly being transported on road in trucks taking up a transportation cost of Rs 560 per tonne. Once the railway siding becomes operational, the transportation cost would come down to Rs 460 per tonne. The time of transportation (currently 14-16 hours), would also be reduced.
Currently Kalunga, a remote place tucked away 20 km off Rourkela is the only other railway siding, but that too has run into problems and has become non-operational. The Kuarmunda railway siding would also help avoid the current road congestion faced by the transporters.
As for the funds for the sophisticated railway siding, 25 per cent would be brought in by the entrepreneurs, in this case the proprietors of the sponge iron units while another 25 per cent would come in through different central government schemes. The remaining funds would be provided by IL&FS with a 13 year repayment condition and a 3-year moratorium.
The railway siding would have a capacity of handling 3-rakes simultaneously from a single point.
About 2000 people would be directly employed in the mechanised unit. It would also have a common facility centre with administrative and canteen blocks.