Sagar Sandesh: What needs to be done to improve the Railway Infrastructure between the National capital region and the East coast ports?
Mr Jayaraman Krishnan: We need a Tughlakabad- East Coast Dedicated Freight Corridor connecting East Coast Ports to provide better connectivity. The rail corridor could connect any of the ports from Visakhapatnam, Krishnapatnam, Chennai, Tuticorin ports or the proposed transshipment terminal at Colachel. The Dedicated Rail Corridor should connect the East Coast Ports to North Indian markets. Unfortunately not much infrastructural attention has been paid to this region by successive governments. Nor the Port Administrations in the East Coast pushed for this project with the concerned authorities. The Corridor could have given them better connectivity to the hinterland.
While JNPT and Mundra Ports pushed for Dedicated Rail Corridors to North India, none of the ports in the East Coast either individually or collectively made a push for this all important project. They never made a serious push to have the project implemented.
The proposal is there on paper but it is not being implemented. It is like the Garibi Hatao slogan given to the people of the country at the time of independence.
Dedicated Freight Corridor (Representational image)
SS:The Ports in the West Coast especially JNPT, Mundra and Kandla are overworked while the infrastructure created in the East Coast ports from Visakhapatnam to Tuticorin is either under-utilized or working to fifty per cent of their capacity. Ten years ago the Railways have promised the Parliament the creation of a Dedicated Freight Corridor between Delhi and Chennai and between Mumbai and Chennai. But they remain on paper till now. Do you have any suggestion in mind to improve the situation and bring about balanced growth in traffic between West and East Coast Ports.
Mr JK: If you see the industrial map of India, the central zone of India comprising Chatttisgarh, Odissa, Jharkhand, Uttarakand and Bihar are not highly industrialized. Large industrial clusters and manufacturing centers have come up in and around Delhi, Haryana and Ludhiana.
The above mentioned states in the central zone are equidistant to JNPT and Visakhapatnam. These states prefer to move their goods to JNPT at present due to connectivity issues. These Central Indian states do not look at movement of any other cargo except coal to East Coast ports to feed thermal plants for domestic power supply. Currently the traffic from central India to east coast ports is predominantly thermal coal. In volumes no other cargo moves in this route.
Today the mineral rich states like Odissa, Chattisgrah and Jharkhand are keen on industrialization and the East Coast Ports needs to get associated with these industrialized states by offering them Gateway facilities and concessions. Odissa also need to have a look at Visakhapatnam since the Paradip port has no container handling facility. When you are trying to attract the manufacturing industry, one must have container handling facility.
The ports like Visakhapatnam, Krishnapatnam and Chennai should develop partnership with the industries in Odisa and other central Indian states and act as a catalyst for the growth of industries in these states.
SS: The Industrial Corridors planned between Chennai and Bengaluru and Chennai and Visakhapatnam have no dedicated railway line as part of the corridor like the ones connecting Delhi and Mumbai and Ludhiana and Kolkata. Do think the industrial corridors make sense without a railway component?
Mr JK: The industrial corridors planned in Southern India, unlike in other parts of the country have no railway component. However there is good rail connectivity between Chennai and Bengaluru. A Dedicated railway corridor is already working between the two cities.
The road connectivity between the two cities is also good due to the development of Golden Quadrilateral. And economic cost of transportation of goods in this route by road as of today is more attractive than using Rail. Road also provides the last mile connectivity. A rail user from Chennai has to take delivery of goods at the Container Depot at Whitefields near Bengaluru and arrange for transportation of the goods to the factory destination
Rail movement becomes economical only if 21 rakes containing 42 TEUs are moved between Chennai and Bengaluru. Then only the service becomes economical.
There has not been much progress in the implementation of the Chennai Visakhapatman industrial corridor funded by the Asian Development Bank. Meanwhile the usage of the Railway Corridor between Chennai and Kolkata has exceeded 95 per cent. The high density corridor has already reached the saturation point.
Citing another instance, he said the traffic on the Chord line between Chennai Egmore and Tiruchirapalli has reached 120 per cent and hence no new passenger trains could be introduced by the Southern Railway despite the doubling of railway tracks recently.
Industrialization leads to development of the region, economical and social
The East Coast Railway connecting Chennai with Tuticorin was sanctioned over ten years ago in the Railway budget. Till now the Detailed Project Report for the project has not been prepared by the Southern Railways. Tamil Nadu government is not keen on taking any initiative on industrialization of the state. Government had recently announced a dedicated railway corridor between Kolkata and Vijayawada. The Tamil Nadu government is yet to press the Centre to extend the Corridor to Chennai.
(To be continued...)