Days after the PMO raised concerns over delay in its dedicated freight corridors, the Railways has identified sluggish work by contractors, law and order situation at some places and slow progress in land acquisition by states among key bottlenecks for this ambitious project.
The reasons have been listed in an internal assessment conducted by the Railways on the issues being faced by the two under-construction DFCs - the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (from Uttar Pradesh to Mumbai) and Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor (from Ludhiana in Punjab to Dankuni in West Bengal).
The assessment finds that big ticket contractors such as Alstom, Hitachi, GMR Infra, TPL-Aldesa (a joint venture of TATA Projects India and ALDESA of Spain), Texmaco Rail and Engineering, among others, have either failed to mobilise labour or are facing cash crunch or have been generally laggard in their work.
While the original deadline for completion of these DFCs was December 2021, the Railways recently said it has been pushed back by six months to June 2022 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
For the delay in the EDFC, the Railways assessment found that the GMR Infra has been able to complete only 63 percent of the work in the past five years. The company was awarded the civil work contract for the Kanpur-DDU section in 2015 at a cost of Rs 5,087 crore.
The assessment has also found Alstom to be "extremely slow" in the electrical, signalling and telecom works in the Khurja-Kanpur section. The work was awarded to them in 2015 for Rs 1,497 crore. It also found that TPL-Aldesa has effected "inadequate mobilisation" in the Khurja-Pilkhani section.
In the assessment of the WDFC project, the report found that Hitachi and Texmaco have "delayed" the signalling and telecom works, while the work progress has also been hindered as the Gujarat government cited "slow acquisition of land for approaches".
"The project is monitored on a weekly basis now. Another meeting is scheduled to be chaired by MR (Minister of Railways) next Monday with all stakeholders. The Railways would listen to all. If contractors are unhappy we can't be happy, idea is to take all with you," Railways spokesperson DJ Narain told PTI.
"However, the Railways will not tolerate any slippages in timelines of the contracted works. Action would be taken against any entity causing delay in the project of such importance. This strict monitoring is for all the working parties involved including entities in the Railways. Rules of monitoring is applicable for all," he said.
He said a DFC review meeting with vendors, suppliers and contractors is scheduled for August 31 while one with state government officials of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat and Maharashtra for September 1.
In response to queries from PTI, Alstom said it had finished 90 per cent of its work on the EDFC project and is on track to complete the rest within the given time.
"The 200 kms section of 102/103 (Bhadan to Khurja) completed by Alstom in 2019 has enabled successful run of over 1,250 fully loaded freight trains. This also makes it the only electrified section of DFC in the country. In all, we have completed 90% of our scope of work on the EDFC project and are on track to complete the rest of the work at the earliest. We expect that very soon, the entire 345 kms freight corridor from Bhaupur-Khurja will be fully functional," a spokesperson for Altom said.
The GMR in a statement said the group's DFC project stretches more than 400 Km and requires supplies of construction material from multiple sources. The limitations on the movement of skilled manpower, supervisory staff and supply of construction material owing to the COVID-19 have adversely affected the project progress, it said.
"More than 40 of our engineers and supervisors were impacted with Covid and there has been one fatality as well. Various village bodies have objected to free movement of outside labor due to the fear of Covid spread. We are also balancing the need of local employment and requirement of trained labour which is taking some time"
"It is noteworthy that in such projects, earthwork and bridge completion takes more time while the track work, which is about 40% of total work is carried out very fast. Despite these challenges, the rate of progress of works on this project is better than other sections of DFCC, which was recognised recently and project was awarded 'Certificate of Appreciation'," a GMR spokesperson said.
PTI reached out to TPL-Aldesa, Hitachi as well as Texmaco Rail but received no response.
The internal report has also said the EDFC has been facing law and order issues in Uttar Pradesh where 46 road over bridges are to be constructed, but only three have been completed, while work is still to be started on 13 due to the slow progress in the construction of the approach roads by the state government.
As much as Rs 924 crore have already been paid in advance to the state for them, it said, adding law and order issues in Meerut, Muzaffarnagar and Saharanpur districts were areas of concern. The Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) is the exclusive corridor for transportation of goods, and once constructed will decongest the railways' network by moving 70 per cent of goods train to these two corridors.
As of July, 56 per cent of WDFC and 60 per cent of EDFC was completed. In a recent meeting, the PMO had raised concerns over the delay in DFC project and asked the national transporter to identify issues which were causing the delays.