November 2007 News

A Train To The Valley

11 November 2007
The Indian Express

New Delhi: Maharaja Pratap Singh first talked about a train to the Valley in the nineteenth century, the British Government seconded the idea, Indira Gandhi laid the first stone, but the rail link between Jammu and Srinagar has only now started gathering steam. By all accounts, it is a mammoth task, including 32 tunnels on one stretch alone, cutting through hills, and the world's highest arch span rail bridge. In fact, after the first preliminary survey following Partition, the gradient of the Pir Panjal mountains and the high costs involved had led to shelving of the project. While some stretches are almost ready now and coaches have been carried to Srinagar by road, it will still be some time before Kashmir is connected to the rest of the country by rail. The logistics of building a railway line to the Valley: The official name of the project is USBRL, or the Udhampur Srinagar Baramulla Railway The official cost is around Rs 11,000 crore, but it is likely to cost much more by the time it is completed Work on the 290-km railway line started in 1994, after Railway Minister Jaffer Sharief put his weight behind it. But construction went into full swing only after it was declared a National Priority Project in 2001-2 by the NDA Government. This meant that the project would be constructed and completed, irrespective of the cost involved. Various railway companies are now involved in the construction For execution purposes, the project was divided into four sub-sections. Construction is complete only on the Jammu-Udhampur section (53 km). Konkan Railways is constructing the 71-km stretch between Katra and Daram, which has the world's highest arch span rail bridge over the Chenab river. Northern Railway has the charge of the 30 km between Udhampur and Katra, while IRCON is building the 67-km stretch between Daram and Qazigund as well as the 120-km line between Qazigund and Baramulla The Jammu-Udhampur line was inaugurated in April 2005. Its longest tunnel is longer than the Banihal Pass Tunnel The stretch between Katra and Daram, which will cost around Rs 8,000 crore, is arguably the toughest portion of the project, with over 80 per cent of it either inside a tunnel or on a bridge. In all, it will have 32 tunnels, seven stations, 34 major and 16 minor bridges This stretch will also have the world's highest arch span rail bridge- 1.315 km long and 359 m high. This makes it 35 m higher than the Eiffel Tower, which is 324 m high More than 600 people are working on the bridge project The Pir Panjal tunnel near Qazigund is the longest covering 10.96 km. The second largest tunnel of 6.57 km is proposed near Salal The 290-km Udhampur-Baramulla rail stretch has about 120 km of tunnels. It has... 222 major bridges, 692 minor bridges 914 bridges 73 tunnels.


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