December 2018 News

Kashmir Railway Project Likely To Miss 2020 Deadline Too

5 December 2018
Greater Kashmir
Mukeet Akmali

Srinagar: Linking Kashmir with the vast railway network outside Jammu and Kashmir has been further delayed due to a halt in construction of a vital bridge across Chenab, a part of the project that is already late by 16 years and facing a massive cost overrun of Rs 25,446 crore. According to latest report of union ministry of statistics and program implementation, work on this project was started in March 1995 and was initially proposed to be completed in 2002. Since then the project has missed several deadlines. In 2014, a fresh deadline was fixed for December 2018, but later railway authorities revised it to 2020. However, this latest deadline is also likely to be missed, officials say, if work continues at the present slow pace. Construction work on the main arch for a bridge over Chenab along the Katra-Banihal section - part of the flagship Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla rail link project - has come to a halt since two months due to unresolved issues between railways and the executing contractors, said a senior official of Northern Railway that is executing the project. He said some arbitration and technical issues have caused the stop in the work. 'We are working to sort out these issues to resume work.' According to the union ministry report, the delay has pushed the cost now to Rs 27,946 crore for commissioning in 2020, out of which Rs 16131.46 crore has already been spent. Railway officials say the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla link is unlikely to meet the revised deadline set by the union railway ministry due to 'slack approach of the state government in acquiring land for laying the railway lines'. Once completed the Srinagar-Jammu rail link will provide all-weather connectivity to Kashmir. The Jammu-Srinagar railway link was was declared a national project in 2002 by Atal Bihari Vajpayee's government when August 15, 2007 was fixed deadline for its completion. However, since then several deadlines were set for the project, all of them missed. About two-thirds of the 326 km Jammu-Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla rail link is ready. The portion that needs to be completed is a 111 km stretch between Katra in Jammu and Banihal on the slopes descending into Kashmir valley. Banihal is connected to Baramulla via Srinagar, while Jammu is linked to Katra via Udhampur. The Katra-Banihal project is considered the toughest in the country's engineering history and involves the construction of 27 bridges, including the tallest rail bridge in the world, and 37 tunnels, one of which is the longest in Asia at more than 12 kilometers. According to the latest flash report of the statistics and programme implementation ministry, 204 railways projects, including the Kashmir project, are facing total cost overrun of Rs 1.82 lakh crore.

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