Article by Arjun Lalchandani
This article is going to give the readers information about under construction Dedicated Freight Corridor and how it will change the freight railroading in India for good.
First let us look into the specifications of dedicated freight corridor. Dedicated freight corridor is a network of tracks which is different from normal tracks and only freight trains will run on them. There are currently 2 dedicated freight corridors under construction -Western Dedicated Freight Corridor and Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor. Western DFC will run from Dadri in Uttar Pradesh to JNPT Port in Mumbai having a length of 1499 km and Eastern Dedicated Freight DFC will run from Ludhiana in Punjab to Dankuni in West Bengal having a length of 1839 km. Both are expected to be complete by December 2021, 56% of WDFC and 60% of EDFC were complete in July 2020. Railways has also bought locomotives which can haul heavy freight trains on DFC which are WDG4G of General Electric and WAG12 of Alstom. WDG4G which is a diesel locomotive has a power of 4500 HP and WAG12 which is an electric locomotive has a power of 12000 HP. Tracks on DFC can support an axle load upto 32.5 Ton whereas normal tracks of Indian Railways support only upto 22.5 Ton of axle load.
Fig. 1 WDG4G locomotive (WDG = Wide Diesel Goods 4G = 4500 HP)
Fig. 2 WAG 12 locomotive (Wide AC Traction Goods 12 = 12000 HP)
Fig. 3 Network of Western DFC and Eastern DFC
Now let us take a look how freight business of Indian Railroad has fared over the year and disadvantages of current system of freight transportation in India.
Fig. 4 Traffic share in freight transportation of various modes of transport.
Above image shows that market share of Indian railways has declined over the years from 89% in 1950-51 to 30% in 2011-12. The major beneficiary of this decline has been highways. This decline is because freight rates of railways are higher than other modes of transport. This shift from trains to trucks has happened even when the trucks are not reliable when it comes to delivering goods on time. All of this happened because for years railways have become victim of politics. The ministry was always given to other parties in coalition and there used to be just announcements of new passenger trains in every budget instead of investments towards increasing capacity and efficiency. Also, passenger rates were subsidized by charging higher rate to freight customers. And railways was not able to adapt to changing needs of freight customers. Because of which railways was able to transport only bulk commodities and other types of goods like automobiles, agri-produce went to highways because railways didn’t have specialized wagons to handle such goods. A very big disadvantage of freight being transported through trucks on highways is that highways become unsafe. This is because truckers overload their trucks, and if a truck gets into accident then the traffic gets stuck on that part of highways until the wreckage is cleared and also loss of lives. US railroads which are predominantly freight railroad system rather than passenger one like India say that one wagon can transport goods that would require 4 trucks. So, one can calculate the amount of greenhouse gases that can be stopped from entering the environment from trucks if a considerable amount of freight being transported through trucks shifts to railroads.
Now let us look into the advantages of Dedicated Freight Corridor.
Two advantages have already been mentioned above which are reduced greenhouse gases emission and makes highway safer by reducing trucks plying on highways. It will also reduce the cost and time required for companies to ship products and will also get raw material delivered on time. Also, companies can have tracks built into their facilities to facilitate faster loading and unloading of cargo. Now companies can build facilities in states that are not near to ports which will cost them less because resources are cheaper in hinterland leading to generation of jobs there which will reduce migration of people to big cities which are already dealing with problems of traffic and expensive housing. The dedicated freight corridor will be running double stacked container trains which will be powered by electric locomotives which was made possible by increasing the height of overhead cables and pantograph. The use of electric locomotives will reduce the import of crude oil compared to trains run by diesel locomotives. The western and eastern dedicated freight corridor will decongest the network of Indian railways by transferring 70% of freight trains to dedicated freight corridors. This will increase the speed of normal passenger trains and their punctuality.
Article by Arjun Lalchandani