By – Harish Kunwar ,16 Oct : With a view to provide an alternative and reliable transportation system to the State of Jammu & Kashmir, a 345 km. long railway line linking the Kashmir Valley with the Indian Railways network was proposed to be built. Considering the magnitude of this project, this was declared a National Project.
This is the biggest project to be undertaken by the Railways since independence. This mountain railway runs through the Himalayas and is called the Jammu-Udhampur-Katra-Quazigund-Baramulla link (JUSBRL). It passes through the young Himalayas, tectonic thrusts and faults.
This is also the only mountain railway in India to be built on Broad Gauge, which will enable instant connectivity with the remaining Indian Railway network once the construction of this project is completed.
The railway line from Jammu to Udhampur was completed and dedicated to the nation by the Prime Minister in April 2005. This section is now called Leg O.
Of the remaining portion i.e. the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link (USBRL) Project the Udhampur to Katra section is Leg-1, Katra-Quazigund section is Leg –2 and Quazigund to Baramulla section is Leg-3 for the execution of construction activities.
This project is perhaps the most difficult new railway line project undertaken on Indian subcontinent. The terrain passes through young Himalayas, which are full of geological surprises and numerous problems. Construction activities are in progress on Udhampur-Katra (Leg 1), Katra-Quazigund (Leg 2) and Quazigund-Srinagar-Baramulla (Leg 3) sections of the project simultaneously. Katra-Quazigund leg is the most difficult stretch of this project. In this leg Salal to Quazigund stretch lies in the territory where virtually no habitation, road or tracking path existed. In Katra-Quazigund a significant part of the project lies in tunnels, with the longest being about 10.96 km. In addition to tunnels, there will be several bridges. The tallest bridge is about 359 m above bed level and is over 1.3 km in length over river Chenab. The project is a challenge to the engineers of India in general and to the Railway Engineers in particular.
Jammu-Udhampur Rail Link Project (53 km)
Jammu-Udhampur section is in the sub-mountainous region. It is 53 km long and has 10 km length of tunnels, 36 major bridges and 122 minor bridges. This stretch has already been completed and commissioned in April 2005. The completion cost of this stretch is Rs. 522 crore.
Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link (USBRL) Project (202 km)
Leg-1 – Udhampur-Katra section is 25 km long and involves about 10.9 km of tunneling. Nine major bridges, 29 minor bridges and 10 ROB/RUBs, in addition to about 38.86 lac cum of earthwork. The approximate cost of this stretch is Rs. 640 cr. The tallest bridge in this section is 90 m high (Br. No. 20) and the longest tunnel is 3.15 km long.
Leg-2 – Katra-Quazigund (148 km) – This leg is the toughest sector, ever been constructed on the Indian Railways. It is full of tunnels and bridges/viaducts. The terrain in this region is full of poor geology and faults. Tunneling and bridging is a challenge greater than that met on Jammu-Udhampur or Udhampur-Katra sections and once completed, it will be a matter of pride for the engineers of Indian Railways. On this section a bridge is being constructed across river Chenab which will have an arched span of 465 m and a total length of the bridge is around 1.3 km. This will be about 359 m above the bed level of the river. While the arched span is world. The stretch between river Chenab and Banihal is through a virgin territory and requires construction of approximately 300 km of access roads of which about 110 km has already been constructed. At Quazigund end of this stretch, the longest tunnel on Indian Railways is being constructed (Pir Panjal Tunnel). This tunnel is 10.95 km long and will pierce through the Pir Panjal range below the snow line.
Leg 3-Quazigund-Baramulla (119 km) -This section falls in the Kashmir Valley, which is a natural bowl, surrounded by the mountain ranges. Though there are no tunnels, heavy bridging is required across rivers, canals and roads. The DEMU coaches which will run on the section have been transported to the valley by employing a very innovative concept by moving these coaches by road, using specially modified road trailers. All 23 coaches have already reached the valley. There will be 64 major bridges and 640 minor bridges in this section.
The stations that lie in this route are Sadura, Anantnag, Bijbehera, Panjgam, Awantipora, Kakpora, Pampore, Srinagar, Badgam, Rajwainsher, Pattan, Hamare and Sopore.
Public conveniences such as toilets, tap water and/or water booths and benches have been provided at all stations along with platform shelters. Once opened for traffic, this section will have a maximum permissible speed limit of 100 kmph. Trains will run from Anantnag Srinagar-Rajwainsher, covering a distance of nearly 66 kms. While the remaining portion of this section will be completed in this year itself.
Spin-Offs This railway line will strengthen the available transport facilities of the State of J & K and provide an all-weather means of transport in an area which is snow bound for a significant part of the year. Thus, this project will bring boost to the development and economy of the State. As a result of this project, employment has got generated for the local people, which will lead to development and prosperity. Upto September 2008 Northern Railway has issued appointment letters to 137 land losers of which 120 people have joined.
Since the railway line is being constructed in a totally virgin terrain in many locations, there are no access roads to the work sites. The Railway has to construct about 300 km of such roads out of which about 110 km of roads have been constructed so far. These roads are not only enabling, reaching the work sites but are also connecting several villages which were hitherto connected only by sheep paths and foot trails. This is proving beneficial for the children going to school, for ailing people taken to hospitals and local produce finding its way to better markets. Along these roads new shops/other commercial establishments are coming up to meet with the regular needs of the persons working on the project. Not only this, local bus services has started at some places to connect far flung villages. These are such villages, where people had not even seen a vehicle earlier. These roads will be handed over to the State Government after construction for regular usage and maintenance.
The eight-coach DEMU would run twice a day on either side. Each coach would carry 90 passengers. The engine has been provided with snow cutter system and the temperature in the coaches can be maintained upto 20 0 during the winter season. The all- weather train is evoking good response from the people in the valley.