Shimla शिमला (SML): Despite the claims about ensuring development in the state, expansion of railway line has been missing from the agenda of various political parties. Railway network has hardly got any tangible expansion in the last 66 years of independence in Himachal Pradesh, as the state has got minimal extension of 44 kms of railway line here. Announced with much fanfare, even the strategically-important Bilaspur-Manali-Leh railway line has remained buried in files so far.
It is not that residents of Bilaspur, Mandi, Kullu and Lahaul Spiti are the only ones eagerly awaiting construction of Manali-Leh rail project. The Rs 414-crore Greater Leh master plan has also identified land in different areas for construction of railway stations and tracks for the proposed rail line.
The existing network of heritage-status Kalka-Shimla railway line and the Joginder Nagar-Pathankot line are a legacy of the British, which were constructed a century ago. Construction and expansion of new tracks has been consistently missing from the respective railway budgets each year, though the demand for Bhanupalli-Bilaspur-Beri, Ghanauli-Baddi, Nangal-Talwara and Bilaspur-Manali-Leh lines have been cropping up since past many years, they said.
Rohit Sharma, a resident of Kullu, said that expansion of railway network in the state should be a prime issue for the authorities since destinations of Himachal Pradesh including Shimla, Manali and Dharmshala are increasingly being visited by tourists from the world over every year. Tourists want to explore the interiors of the state including Lahaul-Spiti, Kinnaur and other areas for which they have to rely on road transport, which is quite arduous, he said.
Himalaya Niti Abhiyan national convener Guman Singh said that due to lack of air connectivity since past few months and lack of proper rail facilities throughout the state, the tourist potential is going untapped. “It is unfortunate that the state has not seen much expansion of railway lines since independence. The issue of expanding rail network in Himachal is now missing from the poll agenda of political parties,” he added.
Rigzin Dwa, a resident of Darcha village in Lahaul-Spiti, said that when China can create good rail infrastructure on its side by expanding railway line upto Lhasa, then it is not understood why Manali-Leh railway line is not seeing the light of the day. “Expansion of rail network would not only boost local economy by nurturing tourism, industries and horticulture sector, but would also be of immense help to defence forces,” he said.
Tara Singh, a Manali resident, said that a railway line, besides being of strategic importance, would also result in a tourism boom along the Manali-Leh corridor as tourists could enjoy the scenic beauty on the pattern of Lhasa railway line of Tibet. “Lack of political commitment is delaying the execution of this project. No political party is ready to take responsibility and are maintaining silence on the issue,” he rued.