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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Railway projects in Uttar Pradesh: Moving with bullet speed

In part one of this series here, we saw how projects under roadways in Uttar Pradesh are progressing rapidly. In this second part of the series, we analyze how railway projects in the state are being prioritized and implemented one by one.

Yogi Adityanath inaugurates start of civil work of Kanpur Metro Project

During the inauguration of 351 kilometers long phase-1 of Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor (EDFC) in December last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had recalled that Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor project was approved in 2006 by the then Congress led United Progressive Alliance government, however till 2014 not a single kilometer track was built. He said, “These projects remained only on papers. The then Central Government did not speak to the state governments with the seriousness & urgency, it ought to have- jiska natiza ye hua ki ye yojanayen atak gayi thi, bhatak gayi thi aur latak gayi thi.”

Prime Minister was able to accurately diagnose the problems large infrastructure projects in Bharat were facing in years preceding to his coming to power. This was more accurate for projects such as railways where central-state coordination is needed on a greater scale.

Finally, the issues related to Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor project was resolved by Prime Minister Modi led National Democratic Alliance government, in close coordination with state government.

The result was for everyone to see. You can only imagine the speed and scale with which both the governments worked on this project that in 8 years (2006-2014) not a single kilometer track was laid down, and in next six years 351 kilometers long phase-1 was ready for inauguration.

New Bhaupur-New Khurja section of the Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor is built at a cost of Rs 5,750 cr. The Prime Minister also inaugurated state of the art operation control centre of EDFC at Prayagraj.

This long delayed, much awaited project will hugely benefit the industrial clusters in western Uttar Pradesh. Pottery products of Khurja, locks of Aligarh, glassware of Firozabad and many other local industrial clusters will find new avenues to sell their products. Local traders, artisans, farmers will be able to grow their business with the inauguration of phase-1 of EDFC.

This corridor will also help Railways to decongest Delhi-Kanpur line for passenger traffic. This is one of the most overloaded railway routes, which is running at more than 250% its capacity. Moving freight trains to separate dedicated corridor will help Railways run faster passenger trains without laying new tracks.

Another important railway project, which in Prime Minister’s words atak gayi thi, bhatak gayi thi aur latak gayi thi, is Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS).

A Planning Commission Task Force in 2005 was formed to develop a multi modal transit system for Delhi National Capital Region (NCR). This was included in the Integrated Transport Plan for NCR 2032 with special emphasis on Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS) connecting regional centers of NCR. The Task Force identified 8 corridors in total with 3 priority corridors namely Delhi-Meerut, Delhi-Panipat and Delhi-Alwar for implementation. In March 2010, feasibility study was initiated to prepare the Detailed Project Report for Delhi-Meerut, Delhi-Panipat and Delhi-Alwar RRTS.

Immediately after coming to power in March 2017, Yogi Government did not waste time and approved detailed project report for construction of Delhi-Meerut line in May 2017. It was subsequently approved by Government of Bharat in February 2019 and in March 2019; Prime Minister Modi laid the foundation stone of the project.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi lays foundation stone of Delhi – Meerut RRTS

This shows the intent of Uttar Pradesh administration on moving ahead quickly with key infrastructure projects. While other two lines – Delhi-Alwar & Delhi- Panipat, are still awaiting approval from either state or center.

Delhi-Meerut Rapid Rail Transit System will be the first of its kind project in the country. 82 kilometers long corridor will connect Delhi’s Sarai Kale Khan to Meerut in Uttar Pradesh via Ghaziabad. The 51 kilometers long phase-1 of the project is under construction and is expected to complete by March 2023. The 32 kilometers long Phase-2 is expected to be completed by 2025.

The corridor is designed for trains to run at the operational speed of 160 km per hr. This will help commuters complete the 51 kilometers long Delhi-Meerut journey in 30-35 minutes. By 2025, close to a million people are expected to use this Rapid Rail Transit System. Coupled with Delhi-Meerut Expressway, which has been completed and now open for public, this will push the development of western Uttar Pradesh, especially areas near Meerut, like never before. This will also help decongest the Delhi-NCR as with good connectivity, people may not prefer to shift to NCR for professional reasons and may prefer to commute from their hometown.

One of the unique features of Delhi-Meerut RRTS project is that NCRTC, the nodal agency developing rapid rail transit systems around National Capital Region, will allow running Meerut Mass Rapid Transit System- MMRTS (Meerut Metro) on RRTS’ infrastructure within the city limits of Meerut. For this, 8 stations dedicated to metro only services will be developed, while 3 other stations will be integrated between RRTS and MRTS. The Meerut MRTS is expected to be completed along with RRTS in 2025. The 20 kilometers long metro route will have 14.4 kilometers elevated stretch and 5.6 kilometers underground stretch.

Talking of urban rail transport & metro projects, Uttar Pradesh is moving really fast with developing urban rail transport systems in key cities.

Before 2017, when Yogi Government came to power in the state, Uttar Pradesh did not have a single operational metro line of its ‘own’ in any of the cities. Noida and Ghaziabad were however connected to metro services through extension lines of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation. Two metro projects in Lucknow & Noida were approved and under construction.

Construction work of 8.5 kilometers long elevated priority line of Lucknow Metro began in September 2014. The line connects Transport Nagar near Amausi Airport to Charbagh Railway Station. It was inaugurated for public use in September 2017. In March 2019, line-1 was completed and opened for public use. Now this 22.88 kilometers long line-1 is fully operational from Airport to Munshipulia – one of the busiest routes in Lucknow city.

Similarly, construction of Noida Metro’s 29.5 kilometers line-1 started in May 2015. The project was completed in record times. It was opened for public in January 2019. The line has 21 stations connecting Noida sector-51 to GNIDA in Greater Noida.

Apart from these two cities, Yogi Government has moved quickly to have metro projects in other important industrial cities too.

In June 2019, Lucknow Metro Rail Corporation (LMRC) was reconstituted as Uttar Pradesh Metro Rail Corporation (UPMRC) as a nodal agency to undertake metro projects in the state. UPMRC is now responsible for execution of metro projects in entire state except in Noida-Greater Noida. The idea of having a single nodal agency for metro projects will ensure faster, efficient delivery of projects cutting down the multiple bureaucratic hurdles such projects have to face usually.

The nodal agency is now executing projects in Lucknow, Meerut, Agra, Kanpur and Gorakhpur.

The Agra Metro was approved by central government in February 2019. Two lines are proposed – line-1 of 14 kilometers and line-2 of 15 kilometers. Work commenced on 4 kilometers of line-1 in December 2020 after Prime Minister Modi inaugurated the civil works through video conferencing. The priority corridor of 4 kilometers is expected to be completed by 2024, while entire line-1 is scheduled for 2026 completion.

Another industrial hub of Uttar Pradesh, Kanpur is getting ready to welcome the priority corridor of Kanpur Metro probably later this year. The proposed metro will have two lines of 23.7 kilometers and 8.7 kilometers each with a mix of elevated & underground sections. The civil work of line-1 was started in November 2019. The entire stretch of line-1 is expected to be completed by 2024, while priority corridor of almost 8 kilometers will be ready for public use by end of 2021 or early 2022.

State government has also approved the detailed project report of Gorakhpur Light Metro in the city of Gorakhnath Peetha. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is head Mahanth of Gorakhnath Peetha. The proposed light metro will have two lines with 27 stations having a total length of almost 28 kilometers.

Additionally, detailed project reports of Light Metro Systems in Prayagraj and Varanasi have been submitted to state government by RITES, awaiting approval.

So, compared to ‘zero’ operational metro project in 2017, state now has operational metro in Lucknow, Noida & Greater Noida besides under construction in Meerut, Kanpur & Agra.

Apart from urban mobility solutions within major industrial cities, state is also keen to start work on inter-city long distance High Speed railway projects.

The High Speed Rail Corporation of India Limited, which is executing high speed rail (bullet train) projects across Bharat, has identified Delhi-Varanasi as the second bullet train corridor of Bharat after Ahmadabad-Mumbai.

The DPR for 865 kilometers Delhi-Varanasi High Speed Rail Corridor is already submitted to the Ministry of Railways in October last year. The LiDAR survey to identify the final alignment of the line started early this year. The proposed route will have 12 stations starting from Sarai Kale Khan in Delhi to Varanasi connecting Noida, Mathura, Agra, Lucknow and Prayagraj along the way.

Civil construction of the line is expected to start somewhere in 2026 and to be completed by 2030.

Uttar Pradesh is also the first state to get the fastest passenger train in Bharat currently – Train 18. This semi high speed train was later renamed to Vande Bharat Express and is running on Delhi-Varanasi route. The maximum speed of the train is 160 km/hr and operational speed is capped at 130 km/hr. The inaugural run of train was flagged off by PM Modi in February 2019. The train has become quite popular among travelers.

The second fastest passenger train in Bharat, Gatiman Express too runs in the state on the Delhi-Jhansi route.

Another first for the state is, Bharat’s first privately run semi high speed train, Tejas Express, runs on Delhi-Lucknow corridor.  The train is operated by Indian Railway Catering & Tourism Corporation (IRCTC). Started on October 5, 2019; the Delhi-Lucknow Tejas Express reported a profit of almost Rs 70 lakhs in its inaugural month with a revenue of almost Rs 3.70 crores. The train has a unique refund scheme in case train gets delayed. It compensates passengers Rs 100-250 if it’s delayed by an hour or more.

Another ambitious project of Indian Railways is the electrification of railways network. The project is being implemented by Central Organization for Railway Electrification (CORE) at a speed which was unimaginable few years ago. In Uttar Pradesh too, electrification of >73% of the network has been completed as of March 2020. State is expected to achieve 100% electrification by December 2023. Some major lines electrified are Gorakhpur – Varansi and Delhi-Moradabad-Tanakpur.

Indian Railway Station Development Corporation (IRSDC) has undertaken ambitious project of station redevelopment. Many important stations are getting a world class make over under the project. In Uttar Pradesh too, stations like Ayodhya, Varanasi, Gorakhpur, Prayagraj, Kanpur Central, Agra, Jhansi, etc. are being redeveloped. Ayodhya station’s makeover is modeled on Shri Ram Temple.

In just few years from now, Uttar Pradesh will have world class metro network in at least half a dozen cities and inter-city semi high speed/ high speed rail network on selected corridors. The kind of industrialization and development state is aspiring for in coming years; fast & efficient passenger & freight rail transport system will play a very pivotal role in achieving these goals. We can only say शुभस्य शीघ्रम!

-by Akhand Pratap Singh

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