The Railway Ministry’s penchant for slighting Odisha is not new. Despite tall claims that the Railway Budget has been fair to the State, what fails to betray the step-motherly attitude of the Centre is its complete ignorance to projects that could actually boost the economic activity in the State and benefit the Railways.
A case in the point is the Rayagada-Gopalpur Broad Gauge line which has been completely ignored by the Railway Ministry in this year’s Budget. The 258-km project was estimated at a total cost of Rs 1,392 crore and the Planning Commission had given its “in principle” approval in June last year.
But the Railway Budget has not made any allocation for the project at all. The line that passes through Ganjam, Gajapati and Rayagada would have played a significant role in development of the Naxal-affected areas and suited the interest of the Odisha Government, but it too failed to make a projection in its demands.
Currently, 21 surveys for new projects are going on and in addition, four new surveys have been included in this Budget for the coming year. But why the lucrative project, with an estimated Rate of Return (RoR) of more than 15 per cent, has been completely glossed over has surprised all.
“In general, Railways consider projects profitable which have RoR of more than 14 per cent. A project with 15 per cent RoR is called a Coffee Table Line and the Rayagada-Gajapati Broad Gauge was one such project. It is baffling why it was ignored,” said top sources in the East Coast Railway (ECoR).
According to the Reconnaissance Engineering-cum-Traffic (RET) Survey, the line mainly passes through Rayagada, Gajapati and Ganjam and also Vizianagaram district of Andhra Pradesh. It also touches the Gunupur station of Naupada-Gunupur line connecting existing Gunupur station to Rayagada-Vizianagaram line.
Since Gopalpur Port is seen as a major source of traffic, the survey had projected that a huge traffic of about 49.5 million tonne is likely to traverse over this proposed new line once it is commissioned.
It did not take into account the outward traffic of 7.4 million tonne of thermal coal from Gopalpur Port as the destinations are closer to Ib Coal Reserve.
The average cost for the route was projected at Rs 6.24 crore while average cost for the track per km was estimated at Rs 5.79 crore. With 52 major and 350 minor bridges, the project would require 800 hectare land. Its gestation period was projected at seven years with an RoR of 15.04 per cent.