New Target For Banihal Rail Line: 2017

13 July 2009
The Indian Express


Banihal: The railway line that will finally connect the Kashmir Valley with the rest of the country is late by another eight years. In limbo for almost a year after Railways suspended works and started mulling a re-alignment, the 70-odd kilometre long Katra-Banihal section on the 148-km Katra-Qazigund route will not be ready before 2016-17, a good 15 years after work first began. This is the latest date that the Northern Railways has fixed for completing works on the Katra-Banihal section. Sanctioned in 2002, the Katra-Qazigund section was originally targetted for completion by August 15, 2007. Commissioning this rail line will finally allow a direct train to the Kashmir Valley. Currently, a 100-odd km standalone section is operational between Qazigund and Baramulla. Work on this section was suspended in July 2008 following a realisation that the geology of the area was not allowing the project to progress as planned. Seven years since work commenced, the Railways only had 10 per cent results to show on this section. After suspending work on the section, Railways insituted an expert committee to examine the matter. The report is currently under examination in Rail Bhavan. “The report has said that there is no need for a new alignment. It has only suggested a relook at some portions of the present alignment which even Konkan Railways and IRCON had asked for,” said Railway Board’s Member Engineering Rakesh Chopra. Konkan Railways and IRCON are the two Railway public sector undertakings executing works on the Katra-Qazigund section. Asked whether the Railways would need to abandon work worth several hundred crores, Chopra said, “There have been failures during the construction. If we have to skirt around these failures, we will do it.” Chopra added that the report had raised the issue relating to safety and it was being closely examined. He, however, said that work on the section could begin in a month’s time. Further, as per the latest estimates, the line between Qazigund to Banihal will get ready by March 2012 while the 25-km Udhampur-Katra section will only get completed by December 2011.