Railways’ Bilaspur-Manali-Leh Rail Line: 10 interesting facts about world’s highest railway track

The first phase of the survey for the rail line project has been completed and the final location survey for the project will be completed in 30 months after which a detailed project report will be finalized.

NEW DELHI: Bilaspur-Manali-Leh rail line: Indian Railways’ strategically significant Bilaspur-Manali-Leh railway line project along the Indo-China border once completed, will become the world’s highest railway track. Recently, officials were quoted saying that Indian Railways has proposed the railway line to be declared a national project, as once completed, the line will help armed forces, boost tourism and will also lead to the development of the region.

Bilaspur–Manali–Leh line is a proposed high-elevation all-weather 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) broad gauge railway track that is planned to connect Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh to Leh in Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir state of India. It would link to the Indian railway network via an extension of the Kangra Valley Railway to Mandi, which would be converted to 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) broad gauge.

The total expected length of Bilaspur–Manali–Leh line is 498 km (309 miles). It would become the highest railway track in the world, overtaking the current record of the Qinghai–Tibet Railway. The Railway Budget 2011-2012 announced that the project would be taken up in the next year’s budget. The next year’s Railway Budget announced that the project was sent to the Planning Commission for appraisal. As of September 2016, Northern Railways has begun the process of acquiring land for setting up office in Leh.

Interestingly, the construction on a 51 km stretch between Upshi in Himachal Pradesh and Phe in Leh is likely to begin soon. The first phase of the survey for the rail line project has been completed and the final location survey for the project will be completed in 30 months after which a detailed project report will be finalized.

Here are 10 interesting facts about the world’s highest- Bilaspur-Manali-Leh rail line project that you should definitely know:

1) The project will have the highest point of 5360 metres above mean sea level. Therefore, it is comparable only to the Qinghai-Tibet rail line in China.

2) The 51 km long stretch between Upshi in Himachal Pradesh and Phe in Leh, for which the work will start soon, is likely to be completed in two years time at a cost of around Rs 5,000 crore.

3) Once this stretch is completed, it will provide connectivity to important locations between Bilaspur and Leh such as Sundernagar, Manali, Mandi, Keylong, Koksar, Karu, Darcha, Upshi and other important towns of Himachal Pradesh as well as Jammu and Kashmir enroute.

4) As per the first phase of the survey, the rail line project will include 74 tunnels, 124 major bridges and 396 minor bridges.

5) Once the work on this line is finished, it will reduce the distance between Delhi to Leh significantly, from the present 40 hours to 20 hours.

6) The Keylong station in Himachal Pradesh on the Bilaspur-Manali-Leh rail line will be the first under station of Indian Railways network to be built under a tunnel.

7) The entire stretch of Bilaspur-Manali-Leh rail line project once completed, will cover a distance of 465 km in total. For the development of the overall Bilaspur-Manali-Leh rail line project, an amount of Rs 83,360 crore is likely to be spent.

8) It is being said that the rail line is the most difficult project undertaken by the national transporter and also one of the most significant projects in terms of strategic importance.

9) The Bilaspur-Manali-Leh rail line is one of the four strategic railway lines being developed by Indian Railways to fortify the country’s borders with China, others being Missamari-Tenga-Tawang, North Lakhimpur-Bame (Along)-Silapathar and Pasighat-Tezu-Parsuram Kund-Rupai.

10) These rail lines projects are aimed at facilitating troop and armament movement to frontier areas at short notice.

Strategic Importance

Once this railway line is completed, Leh will be directly connected to Himachal Pradesh and the rest of India by railway. The distance between Bilaspur and Leh will be about 500 km (310 mi). When the railway lines to Bilaspur and then to Leh are completed, the time taken to reach Leh from Delhi will be reduced to less than two days compared to about four days by the existing highway from Manali. Personnel and equipment will be transported more easily to Leh, a strategic military base. This is one of the four important railway connectivity along China border identified by the Defence Ministry.

Taglang La Railway Station

Taglang La railway station at Taglang La is expected to become the highest railway station in the world at 5,359 m (17,582 ft) above the sea level overtaking the current record of Tanggula Railway Station in Qinghai, China at 5,086 m (16,686 ft)

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