Sujay Mehdudia

Manmohan had declared it a project of national priority

  • Lalu seeks special assistance for projects
  • The 290-km line will be the first rail link to Kashmir Valley

    NEW DELHI: Indicating the importance the United Progressive Alliance Government attached to running a train in the Kashmir Valley and linking it with the rest of country, the Railway Ministry has made a provision of Rs. 1,000 crore for the prestigious Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla linkage in 2007-08.

    Besides, it had sought a special assistance of Rs. 2,725 crore from the Finance Ministry for various other national projects.

    Railway Minister Lalu Prasad made this demand in the Railway budget presented on Monday.

    So far, Rs. 4,522.43 crore had been spent on the Rs. 11,270-crore project, which has been declared as a project of national priority by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

    The proposed 290-km line from Udhampur to Baramulla will be the first rail link to the Valley and is of great strategic importance.

    The Railways, which recorded a revenue surplus of over Rs. 20,000 crore, requires Rs. 6,747 crore to complete the line.

    Mr. Prasad proposed to invest Rs. 2,632 crore during 2007-08 on 137 new and ongoing projects such as electrification and metropolitan transport projects the northeast.

    The projects include the Jiribam-Imphal Road (Tupul) and Kumarghat-Agartala new line and the Lumding-Silchar-Jiribam gauge conversion work.

    The Railway Ministry is understood to have expressed fears that the project for Jammu and Kashmir could face delays if Finance Minister P. Chidambaram does not earmark adequate funds in the Union budget to be presented on Wednesday.

    However, for the about 100-km railway line between Jiribam-Imphal, estimated to cost Rs. 625 crore, Mr. Prasad has provided Rs. 15 crore.

    The project is scheduled to be completed by 2010-11. He has also made a provision of Rs. 45 crore for the 109-km Kumarghat-Agartala line, which is estimated to cost Rs. 880 crore.

    The Baramulla-Qazigund track, which is part of the Udhampur-Katra-Qazigund-Baramulla National Rail project, is rescheduled to be completed by December 2007. An amount of Rs. 448.83 crore had been spent on land acquisition.

    The first kilometre of the 11-km Banihal rail tunnel that will link Kashmir with rest of India has just been completed, promising to conquer the magnificent Pir Panjal Range along the Doda region.

    The proposed railway line, when completed, will provide connectivity to the Valley with the rest of the country throughout the year.

    During winter, the Jammu-Srinagar Highway, the only road link, is closed due to heavy snowfall or landslips.