Rail link to Kashmir nation’s dream, project to be completed by 2024: Ashwini Vaishnaw

TNN Bureau. Updated: 9/14/2021 10:55:55 AM Front Page

Jammu: Asserting that the rail connectivity between Kashmir and the rest of the country is a dream of nation, the Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said that the work on prestigious project is going on at a fast pace and would be open to the public before 2024.
“It is the dream of the nation to see the rail connectivity between Kashmir and the rest of the country and the work on the prestigious project was going on at a fast pace and would be completed soon,” Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said while talking to reporters at the Katra railway station.
The minister was in Katra, the base camp for the pilgrims visiting the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine in Reasi district, where he attended a public outreach programme and laid the foundation for the construction of two new railway platforms and additional facilities.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a very big vision for the railways -- all the railway stations across the country are neat and clean, people get better facilities and the train chugs on time,” he said
Asked about the timeframe for completion of the Jammu-Baramulla rail link, Vaishnaw said this is the dream of the nation and the work on this project is going on at a fast pace for its completion.
"The work on various bridges and other linking area was going on at a fast pace so that the rail will start plying on the (Jammu-Baramulla) track soon," he said, adding that he "will return in one-and-a-half months' time to review the progress on the work".
He assured that rail link with Kashmir would be open to the public before 2024.
The work on the Rs 21,653 crore Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link (USBRL) project, which is the most challenging railway infrastructure project being undertaken post-independence, was started in 1997 and has missed several deadlines amid huge cost escalations.
Out of the total 272 km USBRL project, the 161 km was commissioned in phases with the first phase of the 118-km Qazigund-Baramulla section commissioned in October 2009, followed by 18-km Banihal-Qazigund in June 2013 and 25-km Udhampur-Katra in July 2014.
The under-construction 111-km Katra-Banihal section has 37 bridges (26 major and 11 minor), 35 tunnels with a length of 164 km (main 27 with 97.64 km and eight escape tunnels with 66.40 km), a railway official said.
This project is the longest railway tunnel having an overall length of 12.75 km, the highest railway bridge in the world which is higher than the iconic Eiffel tower of Paris. It is the first cable-stayed bridge which when completed, according to railway officials, would be an engineering marvel of the 21st century.
The Union minister said the government was working to provide world-class facilities to the commuters travelling by trains and appealed to people to consider the railway properties as their own.
"The railway is a national asset and my appeal to the people was to safeguard the railway property as their own and also not indulge in disruption of rail traffic. It is our property and this is our railway," he said.
He said systematic surveys are being undertaken to link the remotest regions of the country through mobile and internet connectivity.
The minister, who visited the Jammu railway station and a community service centre (CSC) here, took stock of the facilities being provided to the public.
His visit is part of the public outreach initiative of the Union government for Jammu and Kashmir.
He also inspected the Jammu railway station and studied the upgradation plan for the Jammu and Kathua railway stations.
Vaishnaw assured that appropriate steps would be taken to facilitate pilgrims and tourists reaching Jammu and beyond through the railways.
Regarding Jammu-Poonch railway link, the minister assured that work on the same has been expedited and would be completed after addressing viability issues of the area.
Vaishnaw visited a Community Service Centre, CSC, in the Janipur area and took stock of the facilities being provided to the public.
The officers from Jammu and Kashmir e-Governance Agency (JaKeGA) briefed the Union minister about the functioning of the department and its role in facilitating people with respect to government’s facilities like Ayushman Bharat PMJAY, e-Shram and other e-governance facilities.
On February 14, former railway minister Piyush Goyal had set the target for completion of the Katra-Qazigund track project by next year.
"Reviewed the progress of Udhampur Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link project in Jammu and Kashmir and deliberated ways for early execution. The project will be completed by 2022 and will facilitate ease of transport for the people of Jammu and Kashmir," Goyal had tweeted.
On December 28, 2020, Northern Railway General Manager Ashutosh Gangal had set the target for completion of the project by December 2022.
"The prestigious project will be completed by the end of 2022," Gangal had said.
The 272-km railway line is being undertaken at an estimated cost of Rs 28,000 crore by the northern railway.
Gangal said that the first section connecting Udhampur to Katra and the third section between Banihal and Baramulla have been completed with both the sections operational.
The work to complete the most difficult Katra-Banihal section is going as per schedule, he added.

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