Railway network in Odisha remains grossly inadequate with several backward tribal dominated and Naxal-hit districts totally excluded from the railway map. Though the allocation for the State in 2015-16 budget increased to Rs.2514 crore, still development of railway infrastructure in backward areas of the state remains far from satisfactory.
The focus of the state government is on five ongoing projects, four of which were sanctioned more than ten years back. These include Khurda-Bolangir rail project (289 km, sanctioned in 1994-95), Haridaspur-Paradeep SPV project (82 km, sanctioned in 1995-96), Angul-Duburi-Sukinda SPV project (90 km, sanctioned in 1997-98), Talcher-Bimlagarh (154 km, sanctioned in 2004-05) and Jaleswar-Digha (40 km, sanctioned in 2010-11).
The Khurda-Balangir railway line has turned into a politically sensitive issue because of the delay due to low budgetary provisions over the years and incomplete land acquisition. The project, sanctioned in 1994-95, was originally estimated at Rs.1,000 crore. The project cost has now gone up to Rs.1995.25 crore.
Meanwhile, the state government has decided to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Railways on November 4 at New Delhi to set up a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) on cost sharing basis for development railway infrastructure in the State.
The State government would have 51 per cent share in the SPV while Centre would contribute 49 per cent. Measures would be taken as per the SPV for rail connectivity to backward districts of Odisha which includes Malkangiri, Nabarangpur, Kandhamal, Deogarh, Boudh and Kendrapara. Initially `200 crore will be invested in the SPV to take up projects.
Minister of state for commerce and transport, Ramesh Chandra Majhi said that some of the incomplete projects will be taken up by the SPV. Majhi said that steps will be taken to launch the Jeypore-Nabarangpur and Jeypore-Malkangiri railway line projects as promised by the BJD in its election manifesto.
To ensure rail connectivity to the tribal districts, the state government had announced to bear 50 percent and 25 percent of the construction cost of the Jeypore-Nabarangpur and Jeypore-Malkangiri lines respectively.
Earlier, the state government had signed an MoU with the ministries of railways and coal for formation of a JV for development of railway infrastructure in coal-bearing areas. Another MoU was signed between the state government and the ministry of railways to implement the long-pending Khurda Road-Balangir project.