First BOT project in the railways
The Viramgam-Mahesana gauge conversion project - India's
first railway project to be awarded on BOT basis - had a specific purpose: to
involve the private sector in the upgradation and modernisation of the railways.
The Rs 100-crore contract was awarded to DS Construction Ltd after a competitive
bidding process on December 27, 2002. The project started commercial operations
in December 2004. The anticipated traffic on the railway line was about 10
freight trains and two passenger trains each way.
This project was implemented under BOT scheme on fixed semi-annual access
charges. "It was annuity based and on guaranteed access charges receivable on
half-yearly basis of 24 installments of approximately Rs 7.96 crore," says
Subroto Chaudhury, Executive Director, DSCL. "It was the first successful BOT
project of the Railways wherein the concessionaire was required to design,
procure, execute and commission the project with their own investment. Since
then, Indian Railways has implemented various gauge conversion projects along
The Viramgam-Mehsana GC project was part of the Railways' 'Project Unigauge'
launched over a decade ago by undertaking conversion of meter gauge and narrow
gauge tracks to broad gauge. The Railways was seeking to involve the private
sector in financing the construction of railway projects on the BOT model as it
would reduce dependence on budgetary allocations.
This being the first project undertaken on BOT basis by the Railways, there was
considerable interest from all the concerned railway departments. "Various
departments of the Railways involved in the pilot project ensured its smooth
implementation. The success of this project has reduced dependence on the
Railways to finance gauge conversion projects," Chaudhry says. Certain
procedural delays such as getting inspections and approvals on time, ground
survey and finalisation of detailed scope of work had little impact on the
The total length of the Viramgam-Mehsana railway link, including loops and
sidings, is about 82 km. The rail link has 10 stations of which six are
intermediate crossing stations and four are halt stations, including the meter
gauge junction station at Katosan Road. There are some 80 bridges in this
section of which five are major bridges and 75 are minor bridges. There are also
62 level crossings, 33 electrical crossings and 19 telephone crossings. The
project also involved augmentation of power supply. The section also has three
foot over-bridges each at Viramgam, Katosan Road and Mehsana.
The Viramgam-Mehsana rail link is strategically located on the railway lines
linking the important ports of Gujarat, such as Kandla, Mundra and Okha, to
north India. Before the conversion of this section, traffic from Okha and Kandla
was moving north via Viramgam-Ahmedabad-Mehsana, all of 133 km. Even though the
Viramgam-Mehsana section was just a 65-km route, it was constrained because it
was meter gauge. Now its conversion to broad gauge has reduced the distance
between the ports of Gujarat and the north and north-western states by about 70
km, and trains can avoid the congested Ahmedabad section.
DS Construction is currently implementing its second gauge conversion project,
the Attur-Salem rail line, which is likely to be completed by July.
[07 May 2007]