The main reason for development of Indian Railway was, for the transportation of goods or raw materials from different parts of India, to the ports for transportation to the british main island, for its factories. This requirement resulted in the Great Indian Railway being the major carrier of goods at the time of Independence. Almost 80% of the freight at that time was being transported by the Indian Railway, but over the years, the share of railway in freight movement has come down significantly and has lost much of its share to the roadways due to various reasons. In 2011-12, the share of roadways in logistic services stood at approximately 65%. This shift in the preferred mode of transport can be attributed to many reasons including high cost of transportation from Railways, slow movement of goods due to prioritisation of passenger trains, bad handling of goods and various other reasons that have contributed to the downfall of the railway in logistic market.
One of the major hurdles in the expansion of logistics business of Railways is its slow speed and the susceptibility to reach late at its destination. In a highly competitive business environment where you want to achieve fixed deadlines, you need access to goods which reach to you in a stipulated time, and if it fails to reach you by that time then your schedules go haywire and you end up losing money. The same case is happening to businesses across India which are highly dependent on Railways for transportation of their goods, while the producers of small articles which can be transported by road have adopted roadways for their transportation needs.
In India, both freight trains and passenger trains share same tracks and thus there is a priority based system in place which determines the passage of trains. By policy, passenger traffic is given the highest priority, while the freight traffic has lowest priority and has to make way for passenger traffic whenever required. This system has resulted in the average speed of freight traffic be reduced to 25 km/h which is just not enough to cater to the highly competitive business environment of a globalised world. Moreover, the freight system of Indian Railway faces cost run downs due to low availability of yards, and proper wagons which can ensure safe transport of goods over long distances.
In order to address these particular issues, the idea of a Dedicated Freight Corridor was mooted in April 2005, wherein in a joint declaration, India and Japan announced feasibility study and funding of a dedicated rail freight corridor in the country. Following up on this the Railway ministry formed the Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Limited (DFCCIL) after feasibility studies were completed. The company was made responsible for handling all jobs related to the execution of the freight corridors. In the railway budget 2014-15, the Eastern and the Western Dedicated Freight Corridors got approval and the actual construction phase of the corridor was started. The deadline for the completion of these corridors is kept in the year 2019.
The Western Freight corridor starts at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port in Mumbai and ends at Dadri near Delhi in Uttar Pradesh covering a distance of 1499 km while the Eastern Corridor will start at Dankuni near Kolkata in West Bengal and will end at Ludhiana, covering almost 1839 km. These corridors will be double line with broad gauge as the standard used for the lines. Both the corridors will be completely electrified. Only the Ludhiana- Khurja line of Eastern Corridor will have single electrified line due to space constraints.
The Dedicated Freight Corridor has brought in a new age in the development of Indian Railway. It is now being constructed with some of the best railway technologies from around the world like the automatic track laying system which places railway sleepers at precise locations and the tracks being used for the corridor are the heavier type that are of Japanese standards. This will not only enable the trains to run faster but can also handle heavier cargos. The Western Corridor will be double stack Container Train capable while the Eastern Corridor will only support single stack Container Trains. Moreover, the railway network will be connected to the corridor through nodes and junctions which will enable freight traffic from other parts of the country to take benefit of the freight corridor. Under this project each city will get its own goods yard which will have advanced goods handling facilities resulting in safer handling of perishable goods like vegetable and foods.
In order to tap into the potential of this corridor the Government of India is developing the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor taking the Western Freight Corridor as its backbone. Successful completion of this project will enable the railways to increase the speed of freight to average of 90 kmph, and since the tracks will not be shared by the passenger traffic and hence timely arrival of goods is almost guaranteed. One of the major benefits of the freight corridor is the reduction of pollution caused by the transfer of freight from roads to rails which is much less polluting than the road transport.
Indian Railway faced decades of no investment into its infrastructure which resulted in dwindled state that it is currently in. This state is being changed now as the government is investing in services and the infrastructure of the railway. Dedicated Freight Corridor is one of those steps to embolden the Railways and in future the number of dedicated corridors is set to increase as the government is planning to connect all the cities in the golden quadrilateral which consists of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai with these corridors. The future of Railway is set to be better as it takes steps towards self sufficiency and will not be burden on the Indian Government for its day to day operations.