SRINAGAR: Railways ministry is mulling starting a special train service in Jammu and Kashmir exclusively for tourists with Wazwan on the menu.
The state government has also requested the ministry for Palace on Wheels, a luxury tourist train, to boost tourism sector.
A government spokesman on Thursday said that union railways minister Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu called on the chief minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and discussed issues relating to introduction of more train services and completion of Katra-Banihal railway line within stipulated timeline in the state.
Describing railway connectivity as vital all-weather alternate link in the state, the chief minister requested the union minister to introduce special services like Palace on Wheels at various tourist destinations.
The Palace on Wheels is a luxury tourist train. It was launched by the Indian Railways in association with Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation to promote tourism in Rajasthan.
Mufti also suggested opening of new Passenger Reservation Service (PRS) centres at Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Sonamarg and Patnitop to facilitate the tourists.
The spokesman said that Suresh Prabhu indicated to the chief minister starting of a train service, with support from Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation, exclusively for tourists in which renowned Kashmiri cuisine, the wazwan, will be served to the visitors.
The chief minister stressed on putting in place an institutional grid to fast-track progress on all issues pertaining to construction of Katra-Banihal railway line. The proposed high-level committee shall have one nodal officer each from the state government and the union railway ministry, which will regularly meet to iron out the issues and expedite work on the most difficult stretch.
Chairman, Railway Board, informed the meeting that out of the 111-km Katra-Banihal rail stretch, nearly 85 km comprise laying of tunnels and 8-10 km bridge length on very rugged and difficult terrain.
Once complete, the Katra-Banihal railway line will provide all-weather link to Valley with the rest of the country.
To promote state’s artifacts, Suresh Prabhu said his ministry would reserve stalls at vantage points on various railway stations under the ‘Station Development Programme’ of Indian Railways.
On the issue of implementation of R-APDRP, a major part of which is being executed by IRCON, the chief minister requested the union railway minister to ask CMD IRCON to hold periodic review meetings with the state government authorities to speed up the implementation.
On the issue of 12 coaches being held up at Lakhanpur, the CM assured quick movement of trawlers. The availability of additional bogies will augment the carrying capacity of the train services in Kashmir Valley, a process which will be completed within the next two months.
The chief minister also raised the matter of developing 200-km access roads constructed by Indian Railways as part of the Railway Line Project as alternate road link between Katra and Srinagar.
On this, Suresh Prabhu indicated that a structured meeting involving union railways and road transport ministers and the chief minister will be convened at New Delhi to conceive a utility plan.
The chief minister also discussed with the union minister the issue of construction of accommodation for housing of SDRF components at South and North Portals of Banihal-Qazigund railway tunnel to meet any eventuality of disaster.
Regarding the issue of jobs to land owners, whose land has been acquired for laying of tracks, the chief minister urged Suresh Prabhu to consider the pending cases, as they are facing lot of difficulties due to loss of livelihood.
The chief minister said the state government will also map the requirement of skills so that the local youth are trained in maintenance of tracks and other connected jobs to increase their chances of employment.
The union railway minister assured the chief minister that only local youth will be employed in the Indian Railways through the Railway Recruitment Board, in a fair and transparent manner.