Come November 25, the last narrow gauge (NG) section of South East Central Railway’s Nagpur division will become history.
The 116.15 km section between Itwari and Nagbhir will be shut down for gauge conversion.
Four pairs of trains running between Itwari and Nagbhir stations (Train numbers 58843/44, 58845/46, 58847/48 and 58877/78) will be cancelled.
This follows the decision of the Maharashtra Rail Infrastructure Development Corporation (MRIDC) to commence gauge conversion works effective December 1,2019 [MRIDC is Maharashtra Government’s joint venture with Indian Railways (IR)].
This would entail commencement of formation work along with construction of major/minor bridges after dismantling the existing line.
The gauge converted section includes rail connectivity to Umred coal mines.
Faster Movement of Goods and Passengers with BG
Presently Itwari and Nagbhir are dual gauge stations (BG and NG) with Itwari on the Nagpur-Gondia broad gauge (BG) section and Nagbhir on the Chandrapur Gondia BG section.
Though connected by BG, the distance between Itwari and Nagbhir is 258 km via Gondia and 306 km via Chandrapur – large when compared to the direct route which is 116 km long.
The line will enable faster movement of coal from Chandrapur /Umred area to power plants in an around Nagpur- Koradi Thermal Power Station), Khaperkheda Thermal Power Station, APML (Adani Power Maharashtra Ltd.) Tiroda besides the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) at Mouda/Chacher.
Coal rake movement time is likely to come down to four hours from the existing 22 hours.
This route will decongest the railway yards such as Nagpur, Kalumna, Itwari, Ajni and Wardha besides unlocking line capacity on the existing BG routes around Nagpur.
MRIDC has estimated a project cost of Rs 1293 crore targeting completion in 20 months. The alignment will have 19 stations [11 passenger halts, 2 junction stations and 6 crossing stations].
The line will be electrified along with the gauge conversion as per IR’s present policy of simultaneous electrification for all new line /gauge conversion/doubling projects henceforth.
Sanctioned in 2013-14, work began in 2019
This project was sanctioned in the year 2013-14 when this gauge conversion was made a part of the railway budget’s pink book.
The original cost was estimated at Rs 401 crore with a negative rate of return. The Ministry of Railways had prioritized this gauge conversion under the classification ‘C’ meaning least priority project.
IR prioritisation parameters
IR had prioritized projects with a focus on capacity enhancement, decongestion, last mile connectivity, last mile cost sharing, national and remunerative projects, projects enhancing throughput, and providing alternate route.
The prioritization was done under the following categories:- A-1: National Projects, A-2: Cost Sharing Projects, A-3: Immediate Critical Projects, A-4: Medium Critical Projects, A-5: Important Projects Not Critical, B: Other Projects, and C: Least Priority Projects.
Such projects which were deemed least priority by IR have been put back on track after state governments have started partnering with IR for their execution.
Itwari- Nagbhir gauge conversion is one such example.