The dedicated railway freight corridor has finally managed to award all contracts for the Dadri-Mumbai link over 11 years after the flagship infrastructure project was announced.
But on the eastern front -that will connect Ludhiana with Dankuni in West Bengal -nearly 10 per cent of the land, which is close to 450 hectare, is yet to be acquired even as funding has now been tied up.
For the Rs 81,450 crore project, land acquisition and clearances have been the biggest headache so far. The project needed around 11,600 hectare -6,000 hectare for the western and 4,587 hectare for the eastern stretch.
While it was battling court cases and arbitration, a third blow came by the way of the new land acquisition cost, which pushed up the average price from around Rs 1.3 crore a hectare to around Rs 2 crore -an increase of around 54 per cent.
Project cost has also been increased as the land acquisition cost rose 75 per cent from the budgeted level of around Rs 8,000 crore to nearly Rs 14,000 crore now . This could go up further depending of the arbitration awards.
In recent years, land acquisition has been a major headache for most infrastructure projects -highways, railways, power generation and special economic zones (SEZs). In several cases, the projects needed to be reworked, if not shelved.
The corridors running across 3,360 km are aimed at building electrified railway system to enable each train to carry a load of up to 13,000 tonnes -which is the load carried by 1,300 trucks.
On each corridor, Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India (DFCCIL) is laying double lines, which will treble the average speed of the double-stack goods trains from 25 kmhour to 75 kmhour.While the western leg is funded by Japanese agency JICA, eastern stretch is financed by the World Bank.
“There is no escalation in the project cost. Whatever increase is there is on account of higher cost of land,“ said DFCCIL managing director Adesh Sharma, adding that the project would be fully ready by 2019-end, a year behind the original deadline.
But, before that it needs to battle nearly 2,000 court cases and over 9,500 arbitration awards, of which nearly half are yet to be disposed off. DFCCIL planned the project in a way that it avoided large cities, where land acquisition was going to be a problem.
But, challenges have come mainly from areas around the large cities, where prices are higher and “fertile“ agricultural land is being acquired.
Sample this: Nearly half the arbitration cases that are pending are in Haryana (2,277 out of 4,679 cases). When it comes to court cases, Uttar Pradesh tops the list with 669 out of the 1,020 pending cases.
“Most of the arbitration cases relate to compensation based on the latest registration price. Wherever, there is an award, we are paying higher compensation,“ Sharma said. Gary Zimmerman Womens JerseyShare This