Ateli enters history on a freight train

Ateli, a small town in Haryana, etched its name in Indian Railways freight history with the flagging off of the inaugural freight train on the 3,360-km-long Dedicated Freight Corridor from here in August.

Ateli is not the starting point of the corridor, nor is it likely to be a major junction on that route. But it’s the beginning of the only operational stretch of the freight corridor. The station before Ateli — Rewari, where track laying work is still on — is expected to be one of the main junctions. Rewari, about 30 km away from Ateli, also houses the Inland Container Depot of Container Corporation of India.

The first 190-km stretch of the Dedicated Freight Corridor — touted as one of the biggest infrastructure projects, at a cost of ₹81,459 crore, undertaken in India — from Ateli to Phulera in Rajasthan was opened on August 15.

The work to build the two dedicated freight corridors — the Eastern DFC (from Punjab to West Bengal) and the Western DFC (from Uttar Pradesh to Maharashtra) — is on in full swing. Over 98% of the land has been acquired and almost all contracts for projects, ranging from building of bridges to electrification, have been awarded.

While some train movement has started on the first opened section, any tangible benefit from the corridor will be seen only after completion of the 1,000-km rail track, an official of the Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India said.

Weekly operations

Since the launch Ateli has seen about five-six double-stack trains, with one goods container stacked over another, pass through. For now, the officials have been told that at least one train will pass from Ateli to Phulera every Sunday.

The DFCCIL official said that on the western corridor, the 29-km stretch from Rewari to Ateli and 215-km track from Phulera to Marwar (in Rajasthan) will open in December this year.

Meanwhile, the first 43-km stretch in the eastern corridor from Khurja to Bhaupur (both in Uttar Pradesh) will be opened in November 2018. The deadline to open the entire 3,360 km corridor is March 2020.

Linked tracks

The rail tracks through the corridor mostly run parallel to the Indian Railways tracks, and the two have been interlinked at a distance of every 100-150 km. And even in the opened stretch, while the tracks are functional and the new stations built, the civil work, including building staff quarters and erecting pillars for electrification of tracks, is still on.

At Bhagega, Rajasthan, which also lies on the Ateli-Phulera route, the rails are being assembled and sleepers manufactured in a makeshift factory. The rails are being imported from Japan and being wielded together. The machines for making the sleepers are being used for the first time in India and are capable of manufacturing 400 sleepers at one time as opposed to four under the current system used by Indian Railways.

Nearly 10 lakh sleepers have already been made at this factory. These are transported from Bhagega to neighbouring stations.

The 190-km Ateli-Phulera stretch is part of the 1,504-km western freight corridor that will begin in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, and go up till the country’s largest container port, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, near Mumbai. In the process, the track will pass through dedicated stations in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra.

The 1,856-km eastern corridor will run from Ludhiana in Punjab to Dankuni near Kolkata, traversing Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.

Once the corridor becomes operational, freight trains will be able to run at a maximum speed of 100 km/hour as against the current maximum speed of 75 km/hour on the Indian Railways tracks. Consequently, the average speed of the freight trains will also increase from the existing 26 km/hour on Indian Railways lines to 70 km/hour in the dedicated freight corridors. Also, the goods train will run as per a set time table, much like the passenger trains.

Game changer

The corridor is poised to become a game changer for the Indian Railways whose share in freight logistics and transportation has been constantly declining due to competition from roads, and to some extent from waterways.

The share of Indian Railways in freight transportation has come down to 28% from 60% a few years ago.

According to a report by IBEF, around 1,107.10 million tonnes of freight was transported via trains in the financial year 2017 and 2,165 million tonnes is expected to be transported in 2020. These include goods such as mineral ores, iron, steel, fertilisers, petrochemicals and agricultural produce.

Freight continues to remain the major revenue earning segment for Indian Railways, accounting for 64.32% of total revenues in the financial year 2017.

Profits from the freight segment are used to cross-subsidise the passenger segment, the IBEF pointed out in its report.

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2021 4:10:34 AM |

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