Need and Importance of Freight Corridors

Tracing the trajectory of Indian Railways through Dedicated Freight Carriage Corridors.

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Introduction

In the Indian transportation infrastructure, the concept of freight corridors has emerged as a crucial component in enhancing the efficiency and speed of freight services. Dedicated freight corridors, operated by the Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India (DFCCIL), represent a focused network of broad gauge railway lines designed exclusively for freight trains. Let’s delve deeper into the features and importance of these corridors.

A Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) is a specialized railway corridor dedicated solely to the transportation of goods and commodities. The primary objective behind establishing these corridors is to optimize freight movement, thereby facilitating faster, dedicated and more efficient freight services across the country.

Under the auspices of the Ministry of Railways, the DFCCIL serves as the nodal agency responsible for the planning, development, financing, construction, maintenance, and operation of dedicated freight corridors in India. Headquartered in New Delhi, DFCCIL operates as a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU), ensuring focused attention and resources towards the realization of its objectives.

Components of Dedicated Freight Corridors

Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor (EDFC)

The EDFC spans from Sahnewal (Ludhiana) in Punjab to Dankuni in West Bengal, covering a distance of approximately 1,840 kilometers. This corridor traverses through key industrial and economic hubs, including Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, and West Bengal. Designed to cater the growing demand of freight transportation, the EDFC integrates seamlessly with feeder routes connecting coal mines, thermal power plants and industrial cities along its route.

One of the notable features of the EDFC is the 351-kilometer-long ‘New Bhaupur-New Khurja section’, which has played the critical role of decongesting the existing Kanpur-Delhi main line. This section, funded primarily by the World Bank, is aimed at enhancing the operational efficiency of freight trains. It allows for the freight carriage to reach a speed of 75 Km/hr, enhancing the operations by a 3x magnitude.   

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Source – https://www.drishtiias.com/daily-news-analysis/dedicated-freight-corridor-1

Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (WDFC)

The WDFC extends from Dadri in Uttar Pradesh to Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust in Mumbai, covering a distance of around 1,500 kilometers. This corridor traverses through major states such as Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Uttar Pradesh, connecting crucial industrial centers and ports along its route.

Funded by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the WDFC plays a pivotal role in facilitating the movement of goods and commodities between the northern hinterlands and the western coast of India. Notably, the corridor serves as a vital link in the industrial corridor of Delhi-Mumbai, bolstering trade and economic activities across regions.

The development of the EDFC and WDFC holds immense significance for India’s economic growth and infrastructure modernization. By providing dedicated pathways for freight trains, these corridors alleviate congestion on existing railway networks, thereby enhancing overall operational efficiency. Moreover, the integration of advanced technology and infrastructure ensures faster and more reliable transportation of goods, benefiting industries, businesses, and consumers alike. By fostering seamless connectivity and facilitating the movement of goods across vast distances, the EDFC and WDFC are poised to play a transformative role in shaping India’s logistics landscape for years to come.

Meeting the Urgent Demand – The Need For Freight Corridors

The Indian Railways system, spanning approximately 68,442 kilometers, has been the backbone of the nation’s economy, facilitating transportation of significant volumes of goods and commodities. However, with freight traffic witnessing an unprecedented surge over the years, the existing infrastructure is under immense strain, necessitating the urgent development of dedicated freight corridors (DFCs) to address these challenges effectively.

Growing Demand And Infrastructure Challenges

The Indian Railways witnessed a remarkable increase in freight traffic, from 73.2 million tonnes in 1950-51 to a staggering 1221.48 million tonnes in 2018-19. This exponential growth, however, has strained the existing infrastructure, particularly on critical arteries like the Golden Quadrilateral, leading to congestion and operational inefficiencies. The coexistence of passenger and freight trains on the same tracks further exacerbates the situation, with freight trains often facing delays and reduced operational speeds.

In response to these challenges, the Ministry of Railways explored various options to augment capacity and enhance efficiency. While the augmentation of the existing network and the creation of dedicated passenger corridors were considered, the establishment of dedicated freight corridors emerged as the most viable and effective solution.

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Addressing Challenges

The government’s resolve to expedite work on under-construction DFCs received a significant boost following incidents like the April 2022 power outages, where DFCs played a crucial role in rushing coal from eastern mines to mitigate the crisis in the North and West regions. Despite facing challenges such as missed deadlines, project extensions, and increased project outlays, the construction of DFCs remains on firm ground.

Shri. Ravindra Kumar Jain, MD of DFCCIL, emphasized that despite pandemic-induced challenges and delays in clearances and land acquisition, construction progress remains steady. Significant milestones include track laying, construction of level crossings, stations, feeder routes, and logistics parks, all of which contribute to the overarching goal of enhancing freight transportation efficiency.

Transformative Impact of DFCs

As India aspires to transition into a global manufacturing hub, the implementation of DFCs is poised to yield significant benefits. Rampraveen Swaminathan, MD & CEO of Mahindra Logistics, highlights the potential for substantial savings in transit time, efficiency, and cost savings through effective utilization of DFCs. Additionally, the National Logistics Policy aims to halve logistics costs by 2030, with rail-based solutions playing a crucial role in achieving this objective.

J.B. Singh, Director of MOVIN Express, underscores the importance of transparency in DFC operations to build trust among logistics providers and shippers. He emphasizes the need for data sharing on train schedules, freight volumes, and transit times to optimize operations and foster collaboration within the logistics ecosystem.

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DFCCIL’s ambitious plans to ring-fence the entire country with railway corridors spanning from east to west coast, covering a distance of 4,300 kilometers, signify a significant step towards revolutionizing freight transportation in India. As the logistics sector gears up to meet the growing demand, DFCs are poised to reclaim the railways’ share in freight traffic and usher in a new era of efficiency, sustainability, and economic growth.

Unblocking Opportunities – Significance of Freight Corridors

Streamlined Cargo Movement

The implementation of Dedicated Freight Corridors (DFCs) promises to revolutionize cargo movement, offering seamless and cost-competitive transportation solutions. With dedicated pathways for freight trains, DFCs ensure uninterrupted movement of goods, reducing transit times and enhancing efficiency in freight transportation. This enhancement in logistics infrastructure is set to have a profound impact on trade dynamics, facilitating smoother and more reliable supply chains.

Accurate Travel Time Prediction

One of the significant benefits of DFCs is the ability to provide accurate travel time predictions for freight transports. By offering reliable schedules and minimizing delays, DFCs enable businesses to plan and execute their logistics operations more effectively. This predictability not only enhances operational efficiency but also fosters confidence among stakeholders, leading to improved trust and collaboration within the logistics ecosystem.

Enhanced Capacity and Efficiency

The Dedicated Freight Corridors (DFCs) are set to revolutionize cargo transportation by multiplying the capacity to carry heavier loads and volumes. With the capability to operate 480 heavy-haul freight trains daily, these corridors promise quicker cargo transit and alleviate congestion on existing rail and road networks. Such enhancements in capacity and efficiency are poised to streamline logistics operations and boost overall economic growth.

Reduction in Logistics Costs

A World Bank report highlights the transformative impact of DFCs in reducing India’s high logistics costs, estimated at 13-15% of the GDP to sustainable 8% by 2030. By aligning with global standards, DFCs aim to achieve significant cost savings and efficiency gains. 

Additionally, each kilometer-long freight train on the Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor (EDFC) is expected to replace approximately 72 trucks, easing congestion on roads and highways and further contributing to cost reduction efforts.

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Environmental Sustainability

DFCs pave the way for a shift from diesel-operated trucks to electrified rail, significantly reducing India’s fossil fuel consumption and carbon footprint. The transition to energy-efficient corridors underscores the commitment to environmental sustainability and aligns with global efforts to combat climate change. Such initiatives highlight the role of DFCs in fostering sustainable development and ensuring a greener future for generations to come.

Coal Corridor Development

The operationalization of the Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor (EDFC) marks a significant milestone in addressing acute coal shortages and power outages across the country. By connecting North India to coal mines in the eastern regions, EDFC reduces transit times by 30-40%, thereby lowering inventory costs for power plants. The corridor also alleviates congestion on critical routes like the Delhi-Howrah Grand Chord, enhancing the speed and efficiency of passenger trains.

Infrastructure Development for Economic Growth

DFCs serve as catalysts for infrastructure development, facilitating the establishment of multi-modal logistics parks (MMLPs) along their routes. These parks, integral to the PM Gati Shakti National Master Plan, aim to enhance economic growth and infrastructure development by providing seamless connectivity and lowering logistics costs. By integrating various modes of transport, MMLPs optimize freight logistics, reduce warehousing costs, and improve consignment tracking and traceability, thereby fostering a conducive environment for investment and economic prosperity.

Source – https://pmgatishakti.gov.in/pmgatishakti/login

Towards Global Standards

DFCs represent India’s commitment to aligning its logistics infrastructure with global standards. By incorporating best practices in freight transportation and infrastructure development, DFCs elevate India’s position as a key player in the global trade landscape. The focus on efficiency, reliability, and cost-effectiveness underscores India’s aspiration to enhance its competitiveness and attract investments in the logistics sector, ultimately driving sustainable economic growth.

Conclusion

The emergence of Dedicated Freight Corridors (DFCs) heralds a new era of efficiency, sustainability, and economic growth for India’s transportation infrastructure. By streamlining cargo movement, reducing logistics costs, and promoting environmental sustainability, DFCs are poised to unlock immense opportunities for trade and industrial development. With initiatives like the Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor (EDFC) addressing critical challenges such as coal shortages and power outages, and the development of multi-modal logistics parks (MMLPs) enhancing connectivity and lowering logistics costs, India is on track to realize its vision of becoming a global logistics hub. As the nation embraces these transformative initiatives, the future of freight transportation in India shines bright with promise and prosperity.

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