TWO MAJOR projects of Western Railway in Saurashtra — the Surendranagar-Rajkot double tracking and the Sabarmati-Botad gauge conversion — have been delayed by a year each due to land acquisition issues and disruption in work due to the novel coronavirus-induced lockdown, railway officials said on Thursday.
The officials added that they had revised the target of completing these projects by December, 2022 and March, 2021, respectively.
Work began on both the projects in early 2018. The double-tracking of the 116-kilometre Surendranagar-Rajkot section was to be completed by early 2021 at the cost of around Rs 1,000 crore. The section would act as a bottleneck for passenger and goods traffic originating from Saurashtra.
However, the delay in land acquisition has meant that double-tracking of only a 14-km-long section between Surendranagar and Digsar has been completed till date.
However, addressing a press conference on Thursday, Parmeshwar Funkwal, divisional railway manager (DRM) of Rajkot division, said that the Indian Railways has identified this project as “critical” and that it will be completed by the end of 2022.
“Due to delay in land acquisition, the project was moving at a slow pace. Then, due to the lockdown, labour was not available. However, the Railway Board has identified this project as a critical project which will have to be completed on priority basis… non-availability of funds would not be a factor. Land acquisition has now been completed in Surendranagar and Morbi district, and it is in progress in Rajkot district,” Funkwal said.
He added that 10 out of 16 major bridges were nearing completion and that 60 percent work of building new stations has been completed.
On the other hand, the conversion of 165-km Sabarmati-Botad section of Bhavnagar division was to be completed by July this year, at the cost of around Rs 1,100 crore. DRM of Bhavnagar, Prateek Goswami, said that the project is now expected to be completed by March next year.
“Track integration has been completed on 150 km out of 165 km and construction of new stations is also in progress. There has been some delay due to the lockdown… we are targeting February-March, 2021 as completion date,” Goswami said at a press conference via videoconferencing.
Goswami expressed confidence that the time-overrun would not lead to any significant cost-overrun for the project.
Funkwal also said that the Rajkot division ran 117 Shramik Special trains during the lockdown to ferry 1.17 lakh migrant workers to their native states, generating revenue worth Rs 12.33 crore. Bhavnagar division ran 31 Shramik Special trains, ferrying 43,602 migrant workers to their states, generating Rs 2.86 crore revenue, Goswami said.
However, both the DRMs said that they were witnessing a negative growth in their revenue during the first four months of the current fiscal.
“We have a target of collecting Rs 1,000 crore revenue in the current fiscal. We expect goods traffic from Pipavav port to remain our major revenue-churner… container cargo will also pick up in coming months,” said Goswami.
Funkwal said they were exploring new avenues. “We want to attract the movement of soda ash from Tata Chemicals in Mithapur to railroad.
We would also look at bauxite transportation from mines in Bhatia and containerised cargo from Morbi,” he said.