Irrespective of the poor progress in the execution of two sanctioned dedicated freight corridors, the Railways are contemplating five more to totally decongest the present rail network for passenger trains.
All eyes are on Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal whether his seriousness in this direction gets reflected in his Budget speech in Parliament on February 26.
He has put his best foot forward by ordering a preliminary engineering and traffic survey to be conducted by RITES for four corridors, while underling his preference for an additional fifth corridor down south.
Currently under construction are eastern and western dedicated freight corridors, totalling a length of 3,338 km under schemes sponsored by external agencies.
Now, the Railways have proposed the 2,000 km-long East-West corridor between Kolkata and Mumbai, the 2,173 km long-North South Delhi-Chennai corridor, the 1,100 km East Coast corridor connecting Kharagpur with Vijayawada and the 890 km-long South West corridor between Chennai and Goa.
While these four corridors would put in place construction work for a good 6,163 km length of freight rail track, Mr. Bansal seems keen to press for connecting Chennai with Bangalore as well.
Should these projects get the approval of Mr. Bansal and the Union Cabinet, the country will have a dedicated freight corridor network of almost 10,000 km.
This would not only speed up freight movement in the years to come but also ease the pressure on the present network of 64,000 km, making way for greater and faster movement of passenger trains. The Railways are preparing for speeding up trains to touch 200 km per hour on some stretches.
To allow for more passenger trains on these tracks the Railways have put in place heavier haul of freight trains on the present network which has speeded up freight movement from 25 km per hour to 39 km per hour.
However, the progress of construction of the eastern and western corridors have been rather tardy and it is unlikely that the Railways will be able meet the rescheduled timeline of commissioning the entire corridors by 2016.