Here's why Central and Western Railway might not be able to meet their March 2019 deadline

Nov 07, 2018, 07:36 IST | Rajendra B Aklekar

Struggling to meet their March 2019 targets for new lines, doubling and expansion of routes due to the supposed shortage of track panels, Mumbai rail officials send SOS to Railway Board

Here's why Central and Western Railway might not be able to meet their March 2019 deadline
Incomplete tracks at Diva, where Central Railway is laying the fifth and sixth lines

Shortage of rail lines has forced railway works to stop in their tracks. Both Central and Western Railway have a number of projects slated for completion by March 2019, but they might not meet this target if they don't get an adequate supply of rail tracks in time. In Mumbai, this includes the third line between Kalyan and Kasara, and the fifth and sixth lines between Diva and Thane.

During a recent the Infrastructure Works Review meeting, CR and WR managers told the railway board that they would only be able to meet the March 2019 deadline if they get enough rail supply in time. The shortage has delayed several projects such as laying of new lines, gauge conversion and doubling existing lines.

Officials might direct the current rail stock towards maintenance of existing lines and wait for bids for the new projects
Officials might direct the current rail stock towards maintenance of existing lines and wait for bids for the new projects

No smooth SAILing
The Indian Railways annually renew 4,500 km of tracks, but have not been able to meet half the target since the past few years. This is due to a shortage of material from manufacturer, Steel Authority of India (SAIL), forcing the railways to call for bids from outside.

The shortage seems to be more severe this year, as a number of zones mentioned this problem in the meeting. However, the railway board claimed that the zonal railways were exaggerating the problem.

The issue was raised by railway managers across India, and railway officials in Delhi said they have been working to solve the problem as early as possible. SAIL officials have assured that the Indian Railways are their highest priority, and that they were stepping up the production of rails to 12 lakh tonne this year.

WR and CR delayed
As per the minutes of the meeting, a copy of which is with mid-day, DK Sharma, CR's general manager, raised the issue of how the shortage is threatening the progress of the Kalyan-Kasara third line and Diva-Thane fifth and sixth lines. In the Kalyan-Kasara third line, a 6.3-km stretch between Vasind and Asangaon is expected to be ready by early 2019. While on the Diva-Thane lines, the 12-km length between Seawoods-Kharkopar is ready, but the stretch beyond that (of an equal distance) needs to be constructed once the land is acquired by CIDCO.

While CR is working on 20 projects with the March deadline, WR has 22. WR is working on around 650.83 km of tracks for long-distance routes outside Mumbai. AK Gupta, WR's general manager, said that about 170 km of track linking had been done with second-hand rails, while for another 110 km, the track bed is formed and ready, but the rail panels are awaited. If these are supplied, Gupta said the work will be complete in the next three months.

Railway board says
A senior official from railway board said that the rails were the last requirement, and many projects are stuck with land acquisition and other problems. "There has been a shortage, but a steady pace of supply is maintained to all railways that require it. The dilemma is whether to extend the target for new lines and meet the target of renewals instead, so that the network is safer. Meanwhile, fresh bids are being invited from manufacturers, as the earlier round of tenders did not garner enough rail," he said.

Another official said that while there are supplies, they need to be used cautiously. "There needs to be a bank for emergency replacements and renewals. It will be difficult to give a exact break-up of new rail requirements in tonnes, but all new projects like doublings and new lines require stock."

Sources from the railways said they are planning to call for 75 lakh tonnes of rail. While SAIL is providing 12 lakh tonne, another 1 lakh tonne will come from a private player. The rest will be procured after the second round of bids.

Also Read: Mumbai: Government Railway Police steps up action against druggies, habitual criminals

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