The government is fast tracking the laying of railway lines for transporting coal from the untapped areas in the state of Odisha, Chhattisgarh & Jharkhand. These proposed railway lines are aimed to transport more than 200 million tonnes of coal by providing linkages to power producers. The move is a positive step and will aid Coal India Ltd to increase coal production and supply.

As per the sources, the Cabinet Secretariat’s newly formed special cell, to revive stalled investment projects, has revived three critical railway lines in eastern India, which were stalled for more than a decade. The projects revived by the new cell are the 93-km Tori-Shivpur-Kathautia line in Jharkhand, 53 km Jharsuguda-Barpalli-Sardega line in Ib valley of Odisha and 180 km Bhupdevpur-Korichapar-Dharamjaigarh line in Chhattisgarh.

These railway projects, estimated to cost Rs.7,000 crore, are likely to be completed by 2016. The three lines together will help reduce coal imports by 31 million tonnes. Due to delay over a decade, the projects cost has been escalated from Rs.621 crore to Rs.3,200 crore for the Jharkhand rail line, Rs.470 crore to Rs.1,000 crore for the Odisha line.

Since these projects are being fully funded by state-run Coal India Ltd, which needs them to evacuate coal from untapped mines in the hinterland, the railways have been told to fast track these lines and not cite paucity of funds as reason for any delay.

Once operational, the new rail lines spanning 346 km would boost India’s annual coal output by 55 per cent and add Rs.10,000 crore to the cash-strapped Indian Railways annual revenues. At 540 million tonnes a year, India’s coal output is short of demand by over 100 million tonnes. New power plants coming up across the country are starved of fuel due to dipping domestic gas and coal supplies, making several of them unviable and forcing others to import expensive coal from places like Indonesia and Australia.

The new railway line in Jharkhand would help evacuate coal from the North Karanpura Coalfields of Central Coal Fields Ltd at Magadh (20 million tpa) and Amrapali (12 million tpa). The Odisha line would help ferry coal from the Ib valley mines of Mahanadi Coalfields. The longest of these railway projects is the 180-km Bhupdevpur-Korichapar-Dharamjaigarh line in Chhattisgarh, which will benefit the Mand-Raigarh coal fields of South Eastern Coalfields. All the three coal fields are subsidiaries of Coal India Ltd.

The Tori-Shivpur-Kathautia line in Jharkhand has now received stage-2 environment clearance, allowing the state to handover land for construction to the government. The line will supply coal to power projects in the region and also provide infrastructure support to other public and private sector investments planned along the corridor. The Jharsuguda-Barpalli-Sardega line in Odisha has secured stage-1 forest clearance and the railways will submit its compliance report with conditions of first state clearance to seek final, stage-2 clearance. On completion of this project, Mahanadi Coalfields will be able to raise production by 18 million tonnes from its mines in the region. The Bhupdevpur-Korichapar-Dharamjaigarh line in Chhattisgarh is awaiting phase-I environment clearance. About 42 million tonnes capacity of coal projects will move forward once this line is commissioned.

The three lines can together help the government meet the coal production target in the final year of the 12th Five-Year Plan (2016-17).

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