Plans to connect Kashmir with rest of India through rail pushed to July

Earlier, the big ticket Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link (USBRL) project was slated to be made operational before announcement of Lok Sabha election

February 21, 2024 11:13 am | Updated 11:15 am IST - NEW DELHI

The first electric train plying in the Kashmir valley departs Srinagar railway station. It was virtually flagged off by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 20

The first electric train plying in the Kashmir valley departs Srinagar railway station. It was virtually flagged off by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 20 | Photo Credit: ANI

Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated a newly electrified railway line between Baramulla and Sangaldan in Jammu and Kashmir, his ambition to connect Kashmir via rail to the rest of India may well have to wait for a few more months, as the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link (USBRL) project has been delayed due to infrastructural snags.

With the Lok Sabha election slated to be announced in March, the Indian Railways was earlier looking at inaugurating the entire rail length spanning 272 kilometres, and even possibly run a Vande Bharat Express between Udhampur to Baramulla, going through the picturesque Chenab Bridge to reach Srinagar by February this year. The train was expected to pass through Anantnag, Awantipora, Pampore among other stations.

Also read | Not by ‘Vande Bharat’ alone

Challenging terrain

The Union Railway Ministry’s plans to ply trains across the whole length of USBRL have been temporarily derailed due to the challenging nature of the terrain. “While the Chenab Bridge, which stands at a height of 359 metres, and taller than the height of Eiffel Tower is ready, the tunnelling work in tunnels around the bridge is still under progress. The entire route is now expected to be made operational in July later this year. The February deadline has been further pushed by a few more months,” a senior Railways official told The Hindu.

Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw had earlier said in Lok Sabha that the terrain passes through the young Himalayas, which are full of geological surprises and numerous problems.

On Tuesday, Mr. Modi flagged off various rail projects in Jammu and Kashmir including the new 48 km railway line between Banihal-Khari-Sumber-Sangaldan and the newly electrified Baramulla-Srinagar-Banihal-Sangaldan section (185.66 km). The Prime Minister also flagged off the first electric train in the Kashmir valley and also train service between Sangaldan and Baramulla stations. There are at least eight tunnels between Sangaldan and the beginning of Chenab Bridge, which connects Jammu with Kashmir.

The partial commissioning of USBRL which includes the Banihal-Khari-Sumber-Sangaldan section is significant as it features the usage of Ballast Less Track (BLT) all along the route providing a better riding experience to the passengers. “Also, India’s longest transportation tunnel T-50 (12.77 Km) lies in this portion between Khari-Sumber,” a Railways spokesperson said.

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