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South Central Railway, the gateway to the South, is endowed with the task of handling rail operations in the entire Telangana State. Infrastructure growth is the key for the socio-economic development of the State. Railway infrastructure development is essential to provide more connectivity to the markets for stimulating the economic growth of the region. Likewise, inclusive growth is possible by providing Rail connectivity to the hinterlands thereby facilitating cheap, safe and convenient mode of transportation for different segments of people. 

Progress of rail infrastructure projects has been at snail’s pace over the decades and could not fulfil the aspirations of people. Most of the existing major rail routes are over-saturated, leaving no scope to further introduce new trains. Coming to freight traffic, the situation is more complex, since the path of goods carrying trains gets restricted on account of the need to prioritise movement of passenger services. 

The Ministry of Railways has in the last four-and-a-half years, caught the bull by its horns, by means of drawing up an unprecedented plan to tap the financial market to fund the cash strapped Indian Railways to undertake its infrastructure projects, complete them, commission them and make them meet public aspirations as well as generate revenue.

The four-pronged strategy adopted by the Government of India is to fast-track completion of last mile connectivity projects, increase the pace of construction of new Railway lines, undertake doubling/tripling/quadrupling of the existing saturated rail routes and provide seamless connectivity with complete electrification of Rail lines.

The capital investments made towards Rail infra in Telangana State rose each year i.e., from Rs 258 crore in 2014-15 to Rs 1,813 crore in 2018-19, a phenomenal 602% increase. In the last four-and-a-half years, a staggering amount of Rs 5,500 crore was spent for Rail development works in the State. A total of 152 kms of new Railway line has been commissioned in the last four years in Telangana. The average kms of new Railway lines completed per year between 2014-2019 is 153 % as compared to the previous period. Constraints have been overcome, eco-system built, momentum picked up and the organisation is geared up to deliver much more in the ensuing years.

Last mile connectivity projects:
The leadership decisively worked out a strategic plan and allocated full requirement of the funds for completion of the last mile connectivity projects. These projects were progressing very slow and due to left over stretches, the infrastructure developed over a period could not be fully utilised, there by resulting in loss of return on capital invested and not serving the needs of the people.

The Peddapalli-Karimnagar-Nizamabad new Railway line project was sanctioned in the year 1993-94 for a distance of 178 Kms, costing Rs 926.24 crore. The project links Kazipet-Balharshah section with the Secunderabad- Aurangabad Rail route, passing through the heart of north Telangana. In over 20 years, the project could move only to a distance of 83.22 kms in various phases. Post 2014, the project was prioritised to complete the balance connectivity of 94.28 Kms between Lingampet-Jagityal-Nizamabad by allocating funds to the tune of Rs 350 crore and was commissioned in March 2017. The benefits of the project are immense. It is a viable alternate link to South-North Grand Trunk route and provides rail connectivity to a vast area of North Telangana towards the North, West and Southern directions.

The Jaggayapet-Janpahad new Railway line project was sanctioned in year 2006-07 for a distance of 60.70 kms. A big push was given to this project by allocating Rs 425 crore from 2014 till 2017 for the works, to complete the remaining length of 29 kms between Mellacheruvu-Mattampalli-Janpahad. The entire line was commissioned for goods traffic in April 2017. The last mile completion of the project entails strengthening of Rail infra to provide mobility for transportation of freight traffic in the mineral rich belt of Nalgonda district bordering the neighbouring State.

New Railway lines:
Considering the aspirations of the people of the regions unconnected on the Rail map, SCR has drawn an effective action plan for construction of new Railway lines in the State. The thrust is to substantially enhance the presence of Rail network in all the regions, which can enable uniform economic development. 

One of the major new Railway line projects in Telangana State is the Manoharabad-Kottapalli new Railway line to a distance of 150 kms, estimated to cost Rs 1,160 crore. The project was sanctioned in 2006-07. Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the project in August 2016. In the last two years, over Rs 120 crore has been allocated for the work and the first phase between Manoharabad-Gajwelis expected to be completed by March 2019. This new Rail line project will come as a big boon to entire Telangana, opening up a dependable transport access from all over, to well known pilgrim and commercial centres such as Siddipet, Sircilla, Vemulavada etc. It will also bring several backward 
areas of Medak and Karimnagar districts onto the national Rail map.

The district headquarters of Medak has not been on the Railway network until now, although it is located in the vicinity of the capital of the State. With a view to provide a much-needed Rail connection to Medak, the Akanapet-Medak new Railway project was sanctioned to a length of 17 kms at a cost of Rs 118 crore in 2012-13. In the last four years, an amount of Rs 81.35 crore was allocated for the project in tune with its importance and is targeted for completion in2019.This will get Medak linked to the main stream Rail routes through Secunderabad and Nizamabad.

The new Railway line project between Mahbubnagar and Munirabad, over a distance of 247 kms was sanctioned in 1997-98 at an estimated cost of Rs 1,723 crore. Out of this length, 66 kms run through Telangana, while the balance is in the neighbouring Karnataka State. Works were prioritised and the first phase between Devarkadra-Jaklair to a length of 28.55 kms has been commissioned in March 2017. An amount of Rs 500 crore has been allocated for the work in the last four-and-a-half years, signifying the importance accorded by Railways to this project, which will connect the backward regions and get them into the transport main stream.

The other important ongoing Rail projects in Telangana State are - The 56 kms Bhadrachalam-Sattupalli new rail line estimated to cost Rs 704 crore which is expected to hugely benefit the area on the banks of the Godavari and the adjoining belt in Khammam district and the Manuguru-Ramagundam new rail line for a distance of 200 Kms estimated to cost Rs 1,112 crore which will entirely pass through the Singareni coal mine region, hugely benefitting the area, on the strength of a link to the Grand Trunk Rail route.

Doubling, tripling and quadrupling:    
Telangana State has a sizeable part of the Grand Trunk route passing through its territory, right from Balharshah till Vijayawada. The immense importance of this north-south rail link and the huge number of passenger and freight carrying trains have virtually over-saturated the section, leaving no further scope to run more services. This has resulted in the plan to construct the 3rd railway line. 

Accordingly, the project for 3rd rail line between Kazipet-Balharshah was sanctioned to a length of 235 kms at a cost of Rs 2,315 crore in 2015-16. Highest priority has been accorded to the tripling works in the section and an amount of Rs 440.38 crore has been allocated. This has enabled completion of Mandamarri-Peddampet stretch to a length of 34 kms including the construction of a very major bridge across the Godavari. The tripling works in other sections are progressing fast and targeted for completion at the earliest. This is going to be the biggest game changer for the passenger and freight traffic movement on Indian Railways, enormously strengthening the carrying capacity of this strategic Grand Trunk section.

The 220 Kms Kazipet-Vijayawada 3rd line project with electrificationmet sanction in 2012-13, at an estimated cost of Rs 1,857 crore. The work has taken off in two phases, and the Kondapalli-Vijayawada portion of the work to a length of 17.49 Kms is nearing completion. The work on Kazipet-Kondapallistretch is on fast track and targeted for completion by 2021-22.
The growth of Hyderabad and Bengaluru as two IT giants internationally has led to a significant increase in the volumes of Rail traffic between the two cities, which majorly passes through Mahbubnagar. 

With the saturation levels of the Secunderabad-Mahbubnagar section increasing to huge proportion, the project for doubling of this section to a length of 85 kms was sanctioned in the year 2015-16 at an estimated cost of Rs 774 crore. Accordingly, the works have gained momentum in different stretches with the target being 2019-20 for completion. In terms of operational efficiency, the doubling will not just lead to handling of more North-South bound trains but also the coal loads of freight traffic from the Ramagundam sector to thermal plants on the Telangana-Karnataka border.

Riding on the success of MMTS suburban services in the twin cities, the Railways extended its plans to undertake the MMTS Phase-II project to link suburban areas in various directions, thereby providing the most convenient and cheapest mode of suburban transportation in Hyderabad city. The project has been sanctioned at a cost of Rs 817 crore to cover 84 kms and is moving sedately. The sectors include quadrupling of Moula Ali-Ghatkesar, doubling of Moula Ali-Sanatnagar, New line for Telapur-Ramachandrapuram, doubling and electrification of Medchal-Bolarum-Secunderabad and Falaknuma-Umdanagar sections. 

The entire project is expected to be commissioned soon. With the State government drawing plans to develop Yadadri as one of the biggest shrines, the MMTS-Phase-II project has been extended to a length of 33 kms between Ghatkesar-Raigir (Yadadri) which will cost Rs 330 crore. The entire projectis sure to provide very convenient intra-city commuter transportation for the people of Hyderabad and also enable lakhs of pilgrims travel to Yadadri comfortably.

Electrification:
With a view to significantly enhance operational efficiency in terms of expenditure and train movements, protect the environment by going in for green energy and to ensure seamless connectivity between various important cities, the Railways are going in for electrification of its entire network, with the mission electrification slated to complete by 2021-22. This has set the ball rolling for South Central Railway too. 

All the Railway lines of Telangana State which are yet to be electrified are now being taken up for electrification. The entire length works to around 930 kms covering Peddapalli-Nizamabad, Vikarabad-Parli, Pagidipalli-Nallapadu, Mudkhed-Bolarum, Falaknuma-Kurnool sections. An amount of Rs 1,300 crore has been sanctioned for completion of these works by 2021-22, which will herald a new standard to Rail services in terms of enhanced speeds, uninterrupted Rail connectivity on a uniform traction of locomotive power, cost effective operations as well as environment friendly. By March 2019, it is expected that the Pagidipalli-Nallapadu 285 kms section will be completely electrified.

Other major infra works which are set to define the priority being accorded by the Railways to Telangana include the Workshop for Periodical Over Hauling being set up at Kazipet at a cost of Rs 383 crore and the development of a new passenger satellite terminal at Cherlapalli, costing around Rs 80 crore which is expected to decongest other heavily congested rail terminals in Hyderabad.

In all, the endeavour of South-Central Railway to provide Telangana with the best of rail infrastructure is proceeding ahead in the right direction. What has been prioritised and implemented in the last 4 years, is sure to be taking a more cohesive and concrete shape in the next few years, thereby presenting the Railways as dependable ally to the people of Telangana State, carrying their aspirations and expectations on its shoulders.

(M Umashankar Kumar - The writer is Chief Public Relations Officer, South Central Railway)


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