Deadline For Kashmir Rail Network Extended To '1730 May 2011
The Economic Times
Srinagar: The Indian Railways aims to complete the ambitious 19,500-crore rail line that will link the scenic Kashmir valley with the rest of country by December 2017, a decade later than what was planned earlier. The 345-km link would link towns of Udhampur, Katra, Baramulla and Quazigund to Jammu faces enormous security and engineering challenges as the planned line would run across rugged terrain, steep slopes and difficult weather conditions. The 273-km link connecting Udhampur to Baramulla has been divided into three sections including a 25-km Udhampur- Katra stretch that would be completed by December next year. The 129-km stretch between Katra and Qazigund would see completion of the longest tunnel on the Indian Railways network, the 11-km Pir Panjal Tunnel. The line would also involve construction of 1,315-metre long Chenab bridge at a height of 359 metres using 25,000 metric tones of steel. The 120 km between Quazigund and Baramulla has been completed by IRCON and is open to the public. 'We are very happy with the commencement of this rail line. It has helped in improving our business,' said Riaz Ahmad, a businessman who travels everyday from Quazigund to other small towns. It used to take Ahmad a full day to travel this stretch that would cost him 300 . Now it costs him 23 and the distance is covered in a few hours. A total of 911 bridges and 114 km of tunnels will be constructed. Expenditure has surged over the years. Till April 2011, 7,165 crore had already been spent. While the budget for last year was 1,000 crore, it has been marginally raised to 1,100 crore for current fiscal. The 53-km stretch from Jammu to Udhampur was completed in 2005. ' The completion of the project would help in integration of the region with the national network, thus helping in improvement of the economy,' said Hitesh Khanna, Director Works, IRCON. The project will provide the rail connectivity to far-flung areas in J&K. Apart from employment generation, the project would lead to construction of 260 km of roads, providing connectivity to 1,47,000 people in 73 villages.