The maiden visit of Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnav to his home state (as he represents Odisha in Rajya Sabha) on Thursday after adorning the loco seat of Indian Railways is being seen here as the 'Train of Hope'.
The rail min will be taking a train ride tomorrow to one of Odisha's backward regions- the undivided Koraput district. Earlier, Vaishnav had a train ride recently in Gujarat.
With the State having its first Cabinet rank minister on the driver seat in the Indian Railways, hopes soar high when in Odisha of a total of over 1,269km new line projects, the distance commissioned stands at mere around 80km. Besides, of a total 3,159 km distance targeted for doubling, only a mere around 500km has been completed.
For Ashwini Vaishnav, who calls himself a taskmaster, putting the pending rail projects in Odisha on the fast track seems to be an uphill task.
Will Odisha Projects Be On The Rails?
In the railways' scheme of work, the projects where the rate of return (RoR) is equal to or more than 12 percent, such plans are considered socially desirable. And India Railways allocates funds on yearly basis to execute the projects. At present, the country is saddling with a high of around 140 such projects having an RoR equal to or more than 12 percent. But the list of pending projects goes up to a mammoth 432.
New Lines And Their RoR In Odisha
- Khordha - Bolangir (289 km) -- The project was included in the 1994-95 Rail Budget having a total cost of Rs 355.36 cr. But the project keeps languishing year after year, and the escalated cost now stands at Rs 3050cr - up 758 percent to figure among the top-15 such projects that saw astronomically high escalation.
- The project keeps languishing because the RoR is estimated at 9 per cent, which means socially undesirable.
- Status To Date: Over 65km work completed. But the project has hit speed breakers. The project is bogged down by issues like land acquisition and forest clearance. As per the Ministry of Railways, the project couldn't progress beyond Nayagarh. And the reason is forest clearances are pending with Nayagarh and Boudh DFOs. Already, the number of trees to be axed has been determined. But the order to execute the 'axe' is pending with respective district collectors, said sources in ECoR and added that DFOs are yet to vet the wildlife clearances.
- Talcher - Bimlagarh (154km) -- Announced in 2003-04 rail Budget. The initial estimated cost was Rs 726.96 cr. The latest cost estimates put it at Rs 1928 cr. The RoR is estimated as negative. Still the project has been taken up but progressing at a snail's pace.
- Status To Date --- As on date, 20 km long Talcher-Sunakhani section of the project has been completed. Further work has been taken up in 23.5 km length from Sunakhani station to 43.50km.
- Here too is the land hurdle. As per ECoR, the project's fate hangs on the acquisition of the remaining 916 acres of land.
- As per highly placed sources, in order to ensure its completion without cost overrun, monitoring is done in Railways at various levels (field level, Zonal level and Board level). Regular meetings are held with the officials of State
Government to clear the bottlenecks.
- Angul - Sukinda Road (98.7km) --- Announced in 1996-97 Rail Budget. By virtue of having a high RoR of 23 per cent, the project has been taken up by RVNL (Rail Vikas Nigam Limited). This vital rail project will see completion next year (2022), said ECoR sources.
- Daitari - Banspani (155km) ---- Year of inclusion in Pink Book is 1992-93. RoR is high at 16 per cent.
- Status To Date --- The project is bogged down by land acquisition issues. If ECoR sources are to be believed, Rs 4 cr has been deposited as compensation money with the district collectors of Keonjhar and Jajpur. But the compensation money is yet to be paid. Highly placed sources reveal that the respective district administration has sought the permission of the State government about the rates at which land compensation is paid, but a decision from the Secretariat is pending.
- Jeypore - Malkangiri (130km) --- The project announced in 2016-17 couldn't make any headway for the delay in land acquisition by the district administration.
- Jeypore - Nabarangpur (45.37km) -- The project was sanctioned in 2016-17. Social impact study completed, land yet to be acquired by State government.
Projects Yet To Get Signal
As per the Union Railway Ministry report, the following projects are not financially viable or has inter-state issues.
- Bargarh Road - Nuapada Road Via Padampur (142km)--- As per IR, the project is operationally unjustified, as such, the project was not taken up. However, Odisha Rail Infrastructure Development Limited (ORIDL), a Joint Venture Company of the Government of Odisha (51%) and the Ministry of Railways (49%), has identified the project for development. Odisha Govt is going to bear the cost of land. Following which, the proposal is under examination, said sources.
- Digha – Jaleshwar New Rail Line (41km) --- sanctioned in 2010-11. The latest anticipated cost of the project is Rs1444 crore. The execution of the project could not be taken up as the Government of West Bengal has not taken up land acquisition in the West Bengal portion.
- Jharsuguda – Ambikapur Rail Line (212km): A Survey for the new line between Ambikapur and Jharsuguda (212 km) via Sundargarh has been completed. The project has been found to be financially unviable.
- Buramara – Chakulia New Line -- This project is falling partly in the Mayurbhanj district, was not found financially viable in a bankability study conducted by Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL). However, Odisha Govt has given its consent for providing land free of cost. Therefore, a detailed Estimate has been reframed for examination, said a report of Indian Railways.
- Lanjigarh-Phulbani-Talcher (313 km) -- Survey has been completed in the year 2017-18. As per the survey report, the Rate of Return (ROR) of the project is (-)3.13%.