RITES conducting feasibility studies on cargo volumes, missing rail links along proposed IMEC corridor: Chairman

Chairman-MD Rahul Mithal says RITES Ltd. and Abu Dhabi Ports Group are jointly targeting development opportunities along the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor after an MoU was signed in February between the two entities

Published - March 19, 2024 09:39 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A logo of RITES Ltd.

A logo of RITES Ltd. | Photo Credit: FILE PHOTO

Leading railway PSU, RITES Ltd has emerged as a key contender among other Indian railway companies eyeing development along the strategic India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC), RITES Chairman and Managing Director Rahul Mithal told The Hindu.

After RITES signed a critical memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Abu Dhabi (AD) Ports Group, which is the exclusive developer and regulator of ports and related infrastructure in Abu Dhabi, in February last month, Mr. Mithal said that RITES and AD Ports Group are now jointly targeting development opportunities along the newly planned corridor.

RITES and AD Ports are now analysing the feasibility of development along missing links across the existing rail corridor that passes through the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel, Mr. Mithal further said.

Capacity augmentation

“There are multiple missing links across the rail portion and certain corridors which need augmentation to deal with these kind of volumes. So, assessments are being done on the kind of capacity augmentation required, kind of designs and costs involved. Even though it is a desert area, the terrain is not that challenging that it can’t be done. It is definitely executable,” he noted.

The Hindu had reported in September last year that while there is a 605-km network extending from UAE’s Fujairah to Ghuweifat on the Saudi border that is under construction as a part of the Etihad Rail Project, there is a missing link between Ghuweifat and Haradh (Saudi Arabia) which will need to be constructed. Of a total rail route length of 2,915 km stretching from Fujairah port to Haifa in Israel, there are missing portions of 1,095 km, with work in progress in 536 km.

Similarly, a proposed rail route from Jebel Ali (UAE) to Haifa spans 2,565 km with missing link of 745 km, another route from Abu Dhabi to Haifa spans across 2,449 km with 629 km of missing link, while the proposed route from Dammam port to Haifa is 2,149 km with 289 km of missing link. Lastly, Ras Al-Khair port to Haifa spans 1,809 km with 269 km of missing link.

Mr. Mithal said that AD Ports is looking to develop and invest in infrastructure augmentation not only in the UAE leg of the IMEC but across the entire corridor. “AD Ports is exploring opportunities in terms of viability and how much exposure do they want to have on various opportunities,” Mr. Mithal added.

Experience of RITES

He further said that the experience of RITES in cargo analytics, infrastructure augmentation required at ports in India or UAE end as well as along the feeder network that merges into the ports and rail corridors, will come in handy.

“We are analysing the kind of cargo potential for IMEC, and augmentation of infrastructure at ports on various ends,” Mr. Mithal said.

He added that these are early stages where alignments, corridors, facilities, infrastructure required, and funding mechanisms are being worked out by each of the countries.

“In coming time, the actual execution in each of countries like methodology of funding, fixing executing agencies will roll out,” he said.

RITES and AD Ports Group are trying to assess cargo volumes that would decide how infrastructure will be augmented phase-wise to cater to existing volumes of business that may shift to IMEC corridor from existing routes like the Suez Canal route as well as potential growth in cargo volumes.

Among the ports that could be connected on the west coast of India are Mundra (Gujarat), Kandla (Gujarat), and Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (Navi Mumbai). In the Middle East, at least five ports have been shortlisted to be connected to the Indian ports which include Fujairah, Jebel Ali, and Abu Dhabi in the UAE as well as Dammam and Ras Al-Khair ports in Saudi Arabia.

It is to be noted that apart from government-owned ports, both Mundra port in India and Haifa port in Israel are privately controlled by the Adani Group, and have been highlighted in proposal documents that The Hindu had accessed.

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