Katra-Qazigund Line Back On Track After 2-year Gap

5 October 2009
The Indian Express
Raghvendra Rao

New Delhi: Nearly two years after it stopped work on the Katra-Qazigund rail track in J&K and decided to explore options for a new alignment for the track that would connect Kashmir valley with the rest of the country, the Railway Ministry has cleared the resumption of construction work on this line, much of which will now be constructed on a new alignment and at a steeper gradient. Trains were supposed to run on this track by August 15, 2007 but the track will not be ready sooner than 2016-17, as per the ministry’s own estimates. Realignments of some sections are likely to push this deadline further. The Railway Ministry ordered the resumption of work after 'considering recommendations of an Expert Committee set up to examine the matter'. The committee, headed by former Railway Board Chairman M Ravindra, reviewed the original and proposed new alignments for the troubled section and reportedly suggested realignment of nearly 93 kms of the line. The Railways will, however, realign only 64 kms of the track - the 8 km stretch between Katra and Reasi, the 14 km stretch between Sangaldan and Banihal and the 42-km section between Surkot and Banihal. No major realignment will be made in the 73-km section of the line that has already been constructed. Besides, the Railways has also decided to go in for a higher gradient of 1 in 80 (which means the alignment gains a height of one metre after every 80 metres it traverses on the ground) in many sections. The original line had a one in 100 gradient. “By going in for a one in 80 gradient, we are likely to reduce the overall length of the route by 18-20 km,” Northern Railway Chief Administrative Officer R K Gupta said. The Railways will stick to the original location to construct the Chenab Bridge, said to be the highest in the world at a height of 359 meters from the river bed, after experts from IIT Delhi, engaged by the Railways after the Ravindra Committee recommended it, cleared the original site for the bridge as being “stable”. Nearly Rs 150 crore had been spent on constructing the 1,315 meter long bridge when the work was suspended. Railways says the partly-constructed stretches of the track that it will have abandon going for realignment are worth less than Rs 50 crore but the cost could be much higher as the contractors who were executing these works-and whose men and machines are idling at the work sites for the past 23 months-may claim around Rs 500-700 crore. While works on the tracks were stopped in November 2007, the Rail Bhavan officially suspended the construction only in July 2008.