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Mumbai: Dedicated freight corridor gives railways the jitters

The project, which the prime minister’s office is monitoring closely, is clashing with several other multi-crore projects at Panvel; authorities need to acquire more land to accommodate the corridor there

A pet project of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has become a bone of contention for the railway authorities. The Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC), which is being developed to provide a special network for freight trains, will pass through Panvel where several other multi-crore projects are also converging: these include the proposed CST-Panvel fast corridor, upcoming airport at Navi Mumbai, suburban sections on the Virar-Vasai-Diva-Panvel line and finally, construction of the Panvel Coaching complex which is meant for carrying out maintenance work of trains and other amenities.

Platform numbers 3 and 4 on Panvel will be converted into the DFC and four new platforms will be added to run trains to Karjat and Virar. File pic
Platform numbers 3 and 4 on Panvel will be converted into the DFC and four new platforms will be added to run trains to Karjat and Virar. File pic

The western corridor of DFC passes through Panvel and then proceeds towards Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT). The other schemes some of which were announced in previous budgets will also be in and around Panvel station. Sources in railways said that they are worried about a multitude of schemes clashing with each other. “The alignment of DFC is close to the proposed suburban fast corridor and the coaching complex. So, we will need additional land from CIDCO, for which discussions with them are underway,” said a Central Railway official.

The DFC is being carved out as a network for container and cargo trains so they can transport goods and commodities faster, without any passenger trains coming in their way (see box for details). Officials explained that the existing railway station at Panvel would be expanded for the purpose of adding more platforms for the proposed CST-Panvel fast corridor and Virar-Vasai-Diva-Panvel lines. Apart from this, connectivity is also planned for the proposed airport coming in Navi Mumbai.

Amidst all this, they will require extra land for DFC. “We will be needing nearly 36 hectares of land from CIDCO and several others from other agencies and private parties,” said an official from Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Ltd, a subsidiary railway body created to look into the nitty-gritty of the project. As of May, they had acquired 442 hectares of land, that too only in Maharashtra.

Initially, several villages in the area had opposed the DFC, fearing loss of land. Gradually, these issues were taken care of. “We are examining the various projects proposed by the railways. The meeting regarding the coaching complex also went well and land will be allotted accordingly,” said a senior official from CIDCO.

Meanwhile, Central Railway has given an in-principle nod for four new platforms at the Panvel suburban section, which will be used for Panvel-Virar and Panvel-Karjat routes. Authorities will convert the current suburban platform numbers 3 and 4 into the DFC, and build four additional platforms for running trains to Virar and Karjat. It is likely that in the rail budget that will be presented today, the DFC will be allocated certain amounts of money.

Dedicated Freight Corridor
>> It was proposed under the 11th Five Year Plan (2007-2012) by the Ministry of Railways, and the PMO is directly overseeing its progress
>> It will transport containers, commodities at a maximum speed of 100 kmph, reducing travel time by one-third 
>> The entire 3,300-km dedicated rail corridor is divided into two parts: western and eastern. The western corridor stretches from JNPT to Nhava Sheva, through Panvel, and then goes into neighbouring states

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