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Freight corridor to connect Calcutta

New Delhi, Nov. 27: The government plans to extend the Rs 28,000-crore east-west freight corridor to a new port near Calcutta.

The cabinet committee on economic affairs (CCEA) today agreed in principle to lay the freight corridor and extend it to Calcutta following a demand from the Bengal government and pressure exerted by the Left.

“In view of the representation by the Bengal government and considering the possibility of increase in freight traffic, the eastern corridor will be extended up to the proposed deep sea port in the Calcutta area,” finance minister P. Chidambaram said.

The government plans to construct a deep sea port, possibly at the Sagar island, as neither Calcutta nor Haldia ports has sufficient depth to cater to large ships.

The finance minister said RITES was conducting a pre-feasibility study for the Sonnagar-Calcutta section of the eastern corridor. The CCEA will approve the extension only after the study is complete. However, no time frame has been set for the study.

The dedicated multi-modal high-axle load freight corridor will cost around Rs 28,181 crore, of which the eastern corridor will need Rs 11,859 crore and the western corridor will cost about Rs 16,592 crore, Chidambaram said.

“On the eastern side, the corridor will be from Ludhiana and on the western side the corridor will connect Jawaharlal Nehru port near Mumbai to Tughlakabad and Dadri near Delhi,” the finance minister said.

The eastern corridor will start from Ludhiana, pass through Ambala, Saharanpur (Haryana), Khurja, Allahabad (Uttar Pradesh) and Sonnagar (Bihar). From Sonnagar a feeder route to Durgapur will pass through Gomoh. From Durgapur, the corridor will eventually be extended to the new port being planned near Calcutta.

Other primary feeder routes from Sonnagar would be to Tatanagar through Garhwa Road and Barkakana to Bokaro via Chandrapura. These feeder routes will be upgraded to carry heavier trains carrying minerals.

However, there have been differences regarding the costing of the project between the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the railways. While the agency had projected a cost of Rs 50,000 crore in its report on the dedicated freight corridor, the railways estimated it at Rs 28,000 crore.

Besides, the Japanese agency wants the tracks to be fully electrified and operation of double-stack or double-storied containers. Railways officials, however, do not agree with the agency’s suggestion. They feel international standard double-stack containers run by electric traction are not commercially viable.

Dedicated Freight Corridor of India Limited will acquire 5,270 hectares of land for the 1,483km Delhi-Mumbai western corridor. It will acquire 3,563 hectares for the 1,279km Delhi-Calcutta eastern corridor.

The Japanese agency had also ruled out extending the corridor to the ports of Calcutta and Haldia as both are river ports of shallow depth of 8 and 8.5 metres, respectively.

The eastern corridor is expected to result in industrial development of the region and generate enough transport demand.

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