On March 30, Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation (DFCCIL), the railway ministry's arm implementing the ambitious Rs 82,000-crore DFC project, ran India's first goods train on a freight-specific track.
The train carried 5,265 tonne of clinker, a raw material for cement manufacturing, loaded on 58 wagons on the 56-km new stretch between Durgawati and Sasaram, the bastion of late Dalit leader and the first Union labour minister Jagjivan Ram.
The trial run brought India a step closer to joining the select club of nations, including the US, China, Australia and South Africa, with operational dedicated freight-specific lines.
"We have run one train under the trial on March 30. Now, we have to shift a lifting barrier on a crossing on the parallel rail track, for which the approval of the Rail Safety Commissioner is required. Also, rules are being framed in the Railway Board for inspection and certification for commissioning of DFCC lines," a senior official close to the development told Business Standard.
The double line electrified Durgawati-Sasaram section is being commissioned with an investment of Rs 1,000 crore entirely funded by Indian Railways' equity. The pilot stretch on the eastern arm of the DFCC project would divert largely coal freight from the existing rail network. DFCC has eliminated 18 level crossings on the 56-km stretch by building road overbridges.
The section is being constructed with an average investment of Rs 20 crore per km.
The DFCC is currently building more than 3,350 km of double-track freight-specific lines from Ludhiana in Punjab to Dankuni in West Bengal as the Eastern DFC, and from Dadri in Uttar Pradesh to Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) in Navi Mumbai as the Western DFC.
The entire project is aimed at relieving the congested railways network by separating freight traffic from passenger lines.
The DFCC has acquired more than 89 per cent of the 11,550 hectares of land required for the project and tied up complete funding from the World Bank for the Eastern DFC and Japan International Cooperation Agency for the Western DFC.
Contracts worth Rs 24,102 crore were awarded in 2015-16 as against contracts worth Rs 13,000 crore finalised in the previous six years.
"The DFCC has finalised civil contracts for 2,138 km (76 per cent), electrical contracts for 1,786 km (63 per cent) and signalling & telecom contracts for 1,356 km (48 per cent) of the length of the project," the official said.
Apart from the small 56-km Durgawati-Sasaram section, the project will be commissioned in phases between March 2018 and December 2019.
The DFCC will purchase 200 locomotives for the western arm of the project from Japan and that order is being finalised by the Railway Board level.
When commissioned, the eastern and the western arms of the DFCC will divert up to 40 per cent of freight traffic from Indian Railways and push rail's share of freight from the existing 36 per cent to 45 per cent by 2019.