Rail Project – Let it miss no further deadlines

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Ministry of Railways on Thursday said that the world’s highest rail bridge, which is being built across Chenab River in Jammu and Kashmir will soon bring all-weather rail connectivity to Kashmir. The bridge will provide the much-needed all-weather connectivity between Kashmir and the rest of the county. “With 88% completion of deck launching, Chenab bridge will soon bring all-weather rail connectivity to Kashmir,” informed Ministry of Railways on its official twitter handle. Notably, this bridge, world’s highest railway bridge, is a part of the ambitious Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla rail link (USBRL) project and is being constructed by the Northern Railway at an estimated cost of Rs. 28,000 crore.

Undoubtedly this railway project is a dream project particularly for the people of Kashmir Valley as they have very fragile road connectivity with Jammu and rest of the country. The Jammu-Srinagar National Highway is a fair-weather road and its frequent closures due to weather conditions have been impacting the overall economy of the Valley besides disturbing day-to-day affairs. As Kashmir is a consumer society therefore everything from fuel to eatables come from other parts of the country and the frequent closures of the highway impact the supply chain. Equally, the closures impact ferrying of fruits from Kashmir to rest of the country thus impacting Kashmir’s economy.  In this backdrop, this rail project is something that will revolutionize the economy.

That said, the project has missed several deadlines and that is what makes people skeptical about the official claims. The work on the Rs 21,653 crore Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link (USBRL) project was started in 1997 and has missed several deadlines amid huge cost escalations. Out of the total 272 km USBRL project, the 161 km was commissioned in phases with the first phase of the 118-km Qazigund-Baramulla section commissioned in October 2009, followed by 18-km Banihal-Qazigund in June 2013 and 25-km Udhampur-Katra in July 2014. The under-construction 111-km Katra-Banihal section has 37 bridges (26 major and 11 minor), 35 tunnels with a length of 164 km (main 27 with 97.64 km and eight escape tunnels with 66.40 km). This project is the longest railway tunnel having an overall length of 12.75 km, the highest railway bridge in the world which is higher than the iconic Eiffel tower of Paris. It is the first cable-stayed bridge which when completed, according to railway officials, would be an engineering marvel of the 21st century.

With the administration asserting that the project will be completed very soon, it is hoped that no more deadlines are missed and the work is finished within the time frame thus avoiding further cost escalations. The surface communication is vital for the progress of any place, Kashmir being no exception. As already mentioned, the existing Jammu-Srinagar Highway is too fragile to keep the promise of modern surface communication. During winters, it remains closed for days together thus hampering the supplies to the Valley resulting into black marketeering and inflation here The railway link would be a great boost to Kashmir’s economy and will improve the quality of life here The concerned authorities need to take the project on priority basis and complete it within given time frame




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