October 2017 News

Rlys Set 2020 Deadline For Linking Kashmir With Train

17 October 2017
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: Railways Minister Piyush Goyal today set 2020 deadline for completion of Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla rail line, which has jumped several deadlines, leading to massive cost escalation notwithstanding 'strategic significance' of the project. He announced launch of 'glass top coaches' between Katra-Jammu and 'specially designed coaches' between Banihal-Baramulla to promote tourism in Jammu and Kashmir. In a series of tweets after meeting Railways Minister Piyush Goyal in the Union capital this afternoon, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti announced that Goyal has assured completion of Katra-Banihal railway track by 2020, which was the only missing link between Jammu-Srinagar-Baramulla railway line and would link Kashmir valley with rest of the country by train. 'Met Railways Minister Piyush Goyal to discuss various issues regarding railway projects in Jammu and Kashmir. He assured completion of Katra-Banihal railway track by 2020,' Mehbooba tweeted after meeting Goyal, who had taken charge of the Railways Ministry last month from Suresh Prabhu. Goyal's assurance for completion of Katra-Banihal rail link, which is one of the toughest rail line in the world, was significant as there had been reports that tough terrain in Pir Panchal mountains, where a number of bridges and tunnels had to be constructed for the railway line, might lead to delay in the project. On Mehbooba's demand for extension of rail line up to Kupwara in Kashmir and Rajouri-Poonch in Jammu, the Railways Minister agreed in principle to the demand and informed the Chief Minister that preliminary survey on the two projects has already been completed. The project is now being examined for funding in the Central Government. The Railways Minister issued on spot instructions to the Ministry officials for a review of work on Katra-Banihal section to ensure that 2020 deadline set by him for completion of the project is met with and there was no further delay as the project has already jumped several deadlines, leading to massive cost escalation. The rail link, apart from helping the people of Kashmir to take rail route across the country and help tourists from various States to reach directly to Srinagar and Baramulla, was also of great strategic importance as the Valley remained cut off due to landslides on the National Highway during Monsoon and snowfall season. The then Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government had in 2002 declared Jammu-Srinagar rail link as national project and fixed August 15, 2007 as deadline for its completion. However, since then several deadlines were set for completion of the project but all of them were missed. Fifty-three kilometers Jammu-Udhampur, 25 kilometers Udhampur-Katra and 119 kilometers Banihal-Baramulla links of Jammu-Srinagar-Baramulla line have already been completed and were functional. Katra-Banihal is the only missing link between Jammu-Baramulla. Goyal announced that Railways would run cold store containers from Jammu to other parts of the country to ferry horticulture produce from the State. For the purpose, the Secretary, Horticulture would pursue the matter with the Railway authorities. Mehbooba sought running of more trains from Jammu to Mumbai, Kolkata and Ahmedabad to get more tourists to the State. Goyal informed the Chief Minister that the Railways have started a weekly train-Humsafar-from Kolkata to Jammu in view of the tourist rush from the area. Goyal said the Secretary, Tourism and Member, Traffic of the Railway Board would jointly explore the possibilities of running more trains from different States to Jammu. Goyal assured all support from his Ministry to boost tourism in the State. He informed the Chief Minister that specially designed trains would soon chug from Jammu to Katra while as such trains would be introduced in Kashmir from next spring. Introduction of 'glass top coaches' between Jammu-Katra and 'specially designed coaches' between Banihal-Baramulla to promote tourism was agreed upon in Mehbooba-Goyal meeting, sources said. The Chief Minister also raised other issues like giving employment to locals by IRCON, a halt station at Naina Batpora, expediting work on other halt stations on the Banihal-Baramulla railway line and transfer back of land at Banihal for constructing a stadium there. The Union Minister assured the Chief Minister of a positive approach and substantive action by his Ministry on the demands raised by the Chief Minister.