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DFCs to be delayed again, deadline extended by 2 yrs

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NEW DELHI : The Eastern and Western Dedicated Freight Corridors (DFCs) would be delayed again for the fifth time in this decade. The completion deadline for the projects is now being extended by two years over pandemic-induced challenges and land acquisition delays.

The Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India (DFCC) has sent its revised completion estimates to the ministry of railways. It sought time till 2023 to complete the Eastern DFC and 2024 for the Western DFC.

The DFCs were earlier slated to be completed by next month. The latest extension will be the fifth revision in the completion timeline of the two DFCs. The project was initially expected to be completed in 2017. Since then, it has been extended to March 2018, March 2020, December 2021, and June 2022.

Marred by Covid-induced delays in land acquisition, contractual fulfilment, and cash flow concerns, DFCC — in its project status report in December — stated, “Progress of works is badly affected in the second wave and targets are likely to be delayed.”

The revised timelines, however, have upset the ministry of railways, which, in its internal communications, expressed dissatisfaction. It sought advancing the targets, said officials in the know.

“There were internal concerns over the revised targets. We thought DFCC could have implemented certain things faster, but after consultations over its issues as the executing agency, there is consensus to go forward with the proposed targets,” said a senior official.

The new target, although farther than anticipated, is a more realistic one, a railways official said.

There have also been lags in capital expenditure (capex) by DFCC. As of March, the government-owned firm has spent a little more than two-thirds of its Rs 15,000-crore capex target for the financial year 2021-22, the company’s internal reports show.

DFCC has so far commissioned 1,010 kilometres (km) of the proposed 2,843 km, pertaining to stretches undertaken by the government for both the corridors. A 538-km stretch between Sonnagar in Bihar and Dankuni in West Bengal is being developed under PPP mode.

Since its inception in 2007, the government’s marquee logistics project has undergone several delays due to concerns over land acquisition and contract-awarding lags.

The agency had cited issues with procurement of imported goods and rising prices of steel as challenges to timely execution. There have been cost overruns due to repeated delays. The initial cost estimate of Rs 21,040 crore was revised to Rs 81,459 crore in 2015, and is now likely to be revised to over Rs 1.24 trillion.

Previously reported that the ministry is expected to move the Union Cabinet to sanction the revised cost soon. Freight corridors are special tracks made for goods trains, aimed at decongesting the rail network and ensuring quicker movement of goods.

With the government’s focus on infrastructure development, the DFC project has been touted as a game-changer in freight movement. It has seen constant monitoring from the upper-most echelons of the government.

In 2021, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi said that DFCs will lead to rapid development, calling them a boon for the nation.

The eastern DFC (1,875 route kilometre, or rkm) starting from Sahnewal near Ludhiana will pass through Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Jharkhand, before terminating in West Bengal. The Western DFC (1,506 rkm), which will connect the significant Jawaharlal Nehru Port (Maharashtra) to Uttar Pradesh, will pass through Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra.

Time Event

  • 2006: First cost estimate of Rs 21,140 crore sent
  • 2008: Cost estimate of Rs 28,181 crore approved by Cabinet
  • 2008: Completion deadline set for five years
  • 2009: Cost revised to Rs 42,231 crore
  • 2011: Cost revised to Rs 69,453 crore
  • 2014: First deadline missed
  • 2015: Cost estimate of Rs 81,459 crore approved by Cabinet
  • 2015: CAG highlighted delays, no deadline adherence
  • 2017: Second completion target missed
  • 2018: Third completion target missed
  • 2020: Fourth completion deadline missed
  • 2021: Cost revised to Rs 1.24 trillion
  • 2022: Fifth completion deadline to be missed
  • 2022: Deadline extended to 2023 (EDFC), 2024 (WDFC)
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