The ministry of railways is mulling scrapping the three newly proposed dedicated freight corridors (DFCs) — East Coast, East-West, and North-South — and instead enhancing the capacity of the current corridors.
This alternative is being planned as the existing projects continue to be delayed due to land acquisition troubles.
The ministry is thinking of adding new track lines to its existing eastern and western DFCs passing major areas in the proposed stretches, senior officials said.
The new plan has also delayed the completion of the projects’ detailed reports (DPRs) by five months, which was supposed to be submitted by this month.
“As we have been facing issues of land acquisitions like we witnessed during the execution of EDFC and WDFC, if we take new alignments through the land where our tracks are already present instead of building new corridors, we don’t have to go through the hassle of land acquisition on certain stretches again,” the official said.
The ministry is also undertaking new financial assessments with the trade-off that the cost saved on land acquisition would be good enough against the cost being incurred on the additional track length.
Minister of Railways Ashwini Vaishnaw had earlier informed Parliament that the DPRs would decide the fate of these corridors.
"None of the DFCs has been sanctioned yet and any further decision with regard to taking up the new DFCs may be taken on the basis of the final outcome of DPR and other factors like financing options etc," he had said.
The DPRs for these new projects were earlier slated to be completed by May, as per an internal communication between the Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India (DFCCIL) and the railways ministry.
A DPR is the foundational document for any infrastructure project to be undertaken — it contains geographical estimates, location surveys, compliance burdens, and financial assessments.
Business Standard had earlier reported that the DPRs underwent a similar revision in April as it wanted to avoid forest and mining areas, which entail lengthy environmental clearances.
Notwithstanding the scrapping plan, the DPRs are 80 per cent complete and are currently undergoing fine-tuning, said officials.
Some suggestions from the railway board are being incorporated and the ministry is also looking at funding prospects for the projects.
The eastern and western DFCs are being financed by the Union government, multilateral financing agencies the World Bank, and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
While the DFCs were touted to be the one-stop solution for freight movement, sources said, as fresh survey requests keep coming, newer areas with freight opportunities keep getting added to the existing list.
“Even now, we are talking to associations about new industries and infrastructure that are mushrooming in those belts, so that we can build our plan keeping in mind future industrial growth,” said an official.
Meanwhile, the overarching DFC plan continues to be riddled with delays.
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), in its report tabled in Parliament last month, slammed DFCCIL for having incurred a cost escalation of over Rs 2,200 crore for the two in-progress corridors, with an anticipated escalation of Rs 2600 crore going forward.
“The primary reasons for granting an extension of time inter-alia include the delay in handing over of land to the contractors, delay in finalisation of design, delay in utility shifting, delay in achieving milestones by the interface contractors,” the financial watchdog said.