Srinagar, Nov 22: The Indian railways is all set to achieve a remarkable feat by connecting Kashmir Valley with the rest of the country, as the work on the ambitious Udhampur-Baramulla rail link project is nearing completion, paving way for the first ever to train to chug between the two regions of the Union Territory.
According to officials, the work on the 272-kilometer Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla rail link project (USBRL is in advanced stage and over 95 percent of the work has been completed so far. Once completed, the direct train service will bring much sought relief to the commuters by reducing the travel time to 3.5 hours from six hours between Srinagar and Jammu.
The project is also expected to boost the economy as the goods will be delivered through the train. It will be easier to transport horticulture items like apples besides other agricultural products from Jammu and Kashmir.
The alignment of the USBRL necessitates the construction of numerous tunnels and bridges across extremely challenging and mountainous terrain, characterized by intricate and demanding Himalayan geological conditions.
Vinod Kumar, Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Northern Railways told NewsAgency KO that the project will be completed on the scheduled date- December 2023 or January 2024.
“The work is going on according to the deadline. If everything goes fine, we will inaugurate the project on the set schedule,” he said.
Significantly, the government intends to launch the highly anticipated Vande Bharat Metro train service between Jammu and Srinagar.
Earlier, Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said it has been decided to set up a Vande Bharat Express train maintenance facility at Central Kashmir’s Budgam district in the first go Vande Bharat Metro will be run between Jammu and Srinagar once the rail network gets completed.
An official told Kashmir Observer that the USBRL project involves 38 tunnels with a combined length of 119 km. T-49, he said, is the longest tunnel with a length of 12.75 km, and is also the country’s longest transportation tunnel.
Besides it, he said, there are 927 bridges with a combined length of 13 km. These bridges include the iconic Chenab Bridge which soars 359 metres above the bed of the Chenab River, and is considered to be the world’s highest steel arch rail bridge.
To enhance connectivity and extend its reach, the Indian Railways has also announced plans to introduce three additional state-of-the-art Vande Bharat Express trains during FY 2023-24, designated for J&K.
The exact launch date of these trains remains unspecified, but they are anticipated to commence operations once the railway lines in both regions are electrified.
Kumar told that the existing stations will be used as of now and if the situation demands, more stations will be established.
Currently there are over 36 railway stations in Jammu and Kashmir, including Baramulla, Sopore, Hamre, Pattan, Nowgam, Kakpora, Awantipora, Pampore, Panzgom, Sadura, Anantnag, Qazigund and Banihal while the rest are in Jammu region.