Rail Line Linking Kashmir Valley to Country to be Ready by Year-End: Minister
Srinagar: The railway line connecting Kashmir Valley with the rest of the country will be ready for passengers by the end of this year with special ‘Vande Bharat’ trains to carry them in the region, Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw announced today.
The minister, who is on a two-day visit, is inspecting the ongoing works on the rail projects on the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla rail project. At a press conference, the minister said work on the railway line was going on at full speed, including on the world’s highest railway bridge on Chenab in Reasi that is an “engineering marvel”.
He said that a specially designed ‘Vande Bharat’ train was being developed for this line that will take care of air-conditioning and heating during the cold season. "Telephone connectivity, double lines, parcel services, cement and pharmaceutical trade through Railways will be ensured by the year-end. There will also be facilities for apple trade,” he said.
The minister will also be meeting with LG Manoj Sinha to review the progress on railway and telecom services in the union territory.
The authorities have set the December 2023 deadline for linking Kashmir with Kanyakumari by a railway line. Vaishnaw added that there have been further demands for additional services for connecting areas including Sopore-Kupwara in North Kashmir, Awantipora-Shopian, and Bijbehara-Pahalgam in South Kashmir with the main railway line.
In response to a query about the delay in the completion of the project, according to the minister, the cost of the project is Rs 35,000 crore and would annually be granted Rs 600-800 crore and this year ‘in a first’ as many as Rs 6,000 crore had been allotted for the project in the budget. He said there were technical reasons for delays as drilling and tunnelling work on the Himalayas is difficult because they are “young mountains”.
On being asked about the lack of connectivity, particularly in Eastern Ladakh, the minister said that close to 500 new towers have been sanctioned for the Ladakh Union territory. Vaishnaw, who is also the minister of Communications and Electronics and Information Technology, said that in the next 12-16 months all the villages and cities in the UT will have 4G/5G services.
“All Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh will get seamless connectivity as India is one of the only five countries which can develop end-to-end telecom technology. After September, as many as 300 new towers will be installed every day,” he added.
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