Trains may chug on Udhampur-Katra track by September

Jammu, July 13: After breaching many deadlines, the much awaited 25-km Udhampur-Katra railway track is likely to be thrown open for traffic in September.

Officials of Northern Railways told that the construction work on 8 tunnels, including 185 feet high tunnel, and 30 small and big bridges is complete and the track is ready for running the trains.

“In August the authorities would handover the track to Commissioner Railway Safety (CRS) and after its approval the trains will be allowed  to run,” they said.

“Safety clearance from CRS is mandatory for making new line operational,” they said, adding that the Chairman Railway Board and General Manager of Northern Railway will conduct thorough inspection of the hilly route before it is made operational.

They said all the formalities would be completed before upcoming Navrtaras. “The pilgrims to Vaishno Devi who have planned to visit during Navratra would directly arrive at Katra base camp in trains without any break in their journey.”

An engineer who has been associated with this work, said: “Around 80 per cent of the route runs through tunnels and bridges. The terrain is so tough and we faced lot of geological challenges due to which work got delayed. But now we have completed our task. The minor work to be done would be completed in July itself,” he said.

“The most difficult challenges we faced were when we found a water body during construction of tunnel number 3 and the collapse of 3-km portion of tunnel number 1 near Udhampur as well as seepage in three other tunnels beyond Katra,” he said.

“The construction work was brought to halt in 2006 when engineers came across a water body in the middle of the alignment of the 2.4 km long tunnel no. 3,” he said, adding that with this the design of the tunnel had to be changed.

“In 2011 work was once again stopped when tunnel number 1 collapsed and other tunnels also faced seepage problem,” he added.

Pertinently, the inauguration of the 25-km long railway track by Prime Minster on June 25 was postponed because the Chairman Railway Board had found some technical snag along the track.
Earlier, the rail link between Udhampur and Katra was scheduled to be completed by 2005. The survey on the 25-km Udhampur-Katra rail project was conducted in 1998 but the actual groundwork was started in 1999 setting 2005 as deadline to connect Katra with the rest of the country.
Sources said that the Katra Railway station has also been completed with modern facilities including tourist guide counter, cloak room, waiting hall, VIP lounge, escalators and lifts, besides parking space on either side.

They said that the Railway authorities were  mulling to extend Jammu mail and Samparak Kranti trains up to Katra, besides introducing new trains including Katra-Kalka (Chandigarh) Express (bi-weekly), Delhi Sarai Rohilla-Udhampur Express, (fully air-conditioned) and Ahmedabad-Udhampur Express.

They said a set of local trains from Jammu to Katra and Pathankot to Katra are also likely to be introduced to cater to the rush of Mata Vaishno Devi pilgrims from Jammu and Pathankot to Katra