Technical humps on Katra-Banihal Railway Line fast being overcome!

SRINAGAR: With a vision and not a mere dream to see trains directly chugging from New Delhi right up to Kashmir, entire Jammu and Kashmir was destined to be actively connected with rest of the country through a well designed rail link. Fewer occasions have been such when Prime Minister of the country has been seen so deeply interested in the development of Jammu and Kashmir especially through a network of railways. Udhampur -Srinagar-Baramulla rail link, the prestigious project must be completed at the earliest possible is what Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not only desired but directed as well. Besides providing employment to hundreds of people engaged in the project, the ancillary areas like material and equipment chains too would get a boost in their business in respect of building up this important project. On the other hand, giving fillip to the economy of the Union Territory was its immediate very positive effect.

Taking a feel of the levels of the developmental works of 16 states including the UT of Jammu and Kashmir, Modi had a detailed meeting via video conferencing with their respective Chief Secretaries and the recent one was the 31st such ‘Pragati Video Conference’. It may be recalled that due to various rather unavoidable reasons, the impressive project of Udhampur – Srinagar-Baramulla rail link missed several deadlines but the Prime Minister gave clear cut instructions to speed up the work on the said rail link. As on date, trains from other parts of the country reach up to the Holy town of Katra from the Jammu side and up to Banihal from Baramulla from Kashmir valley thus the link between Banihal and Udhampur needs to be set up which, however, is facing certain technical humps which are fast being overcome.

Beyond Katra, several bridges nearly more than 27 over river Chenab including the one having the distinction of being the highest arch railway bridge with 350 metre height are being built. Needless to add, this bridge was going to have one more distinction in that it would be higher than the Eiffel Tower of France. While that tower was built to commemorate and make celebrations of the French Revolution and industrial expertise of France, Chenab steel arch bridge, on completion, will be a living testimony of the engineering prowess of those Indians who conceived, designed and built it and undoubtedly, this bridge would become in itself a centre of attraction and a tourist spot . The only thing to do further was providing other logistics and infrastructure to make it a centre of tourist attraction which it rightly deserves.

However, while the highest bridge over Chenab was to have been completed by 2007 as the timeline fixed for taking train to the Kashmir valley by late Atal Bihari Vajpayee was set at the same year, yet that type of a timeline would be mere utopianism as in the concerned region, even regular vehicular traffic (by road) would get disrupted during inclement weathers and for establishing the rail link, ravines, gorges and barren mountainous regions had to be tapped and connected to lay the railway line which definitely is nothing less than engineering marvel and technical feats.

It may be noted that a 136 kilometre railway line between Udhampur – Banihal where presently the work is in progress, has the distinction of being one of the most difficult and sensitive yet important railway tracks in the world. This precisely is what vital infrastructural development in real sense would be defined like and how development for this region reigned supreme in the priorities of the Central Government.

Building too many tunnels to cover hard core track of 97 kilometres on the said track constitutes the most important task of the project, the progress as on date, being completion of as much as 67 kilometres indicates that the optimism about the entire project getting completed by the end of next year was based on realism looking to the hard work and dedication put in the project by the concerned railway personnel. The Prime Minister is well acquainted with the stages of work on this railway line as he keeps himself updated about the progress of this mega railway project but has effectively pointed out that long pending projects needed to be expedited and in this connection, he has instructed for submission of regular progress reports of such projects direct to his office. In other words, he conveyed the importance of regular monitoring and follow up in order to ensure that projects were completed within fixed timelines.