SRINAGAR: Even after 100 years, a rail link between Baramulla and Jammu is far from completion, not even by 2020, the fourth deadline set for the project.
During a function at the SKICC here on Thursday, Anurag Sachan, Chief Administrative Officer of the Katra-Banihal railway project, said that the 372-kilometer railway stretch still has 111 km incomplete and therefore the project will take an additional four years for completion.
“The construction of the stretch has to go through rugged terrains, which has given us tough times. Such work in the Himalyan mountain range is the most difficult to do,” Sachan said. “The Himalyan plate moves 8 mm every year and it makes us re-plan and work again and again,” he said. Work on this railway line was first thought of by Dogra ruler Maharaja Pratap Singh in 1898. In 1902, the British proposed a rail link between Srinagar and Rawalpindi along the Jhelum River. In 1905, Maharaja Pratap Singh nearly approved an electric-powered rail line between Jammu and Srinagar. However, the project didn’t take off.
Then, nearly 50 years later, in 1947 another proposal to extend the rail link between Pathankot and Jammu to Srinagar was mooted, but was abandoned because of high costs. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1983 also proposed a project to connect Udhampur to Jammu by train. A budget of Rs 50 crore was set for it and work had to be completed within five years. The work was not even started.
During the 1990s, when the armed rebellion against Indian rule was at its peak, Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao announced Rs 2,600 crore for a rail link to Kashmir. It is this project that is still under construction. The project has missed its deadlines in 2002, 2007 and 2018.
“The project has 66 major bridges, 777 minor bridges, 18 foot bridges, and 50 curves. Among the incomplete 111 km of the stretch, 97 km is only tunnels and only 14 km is in the open,” Sachan informed.
From Rs 50 crore in 1980s to Rs 27,000 crore in 2018, the cost of the project has constantly escalated. It remains a big question whether the project that is still only 50 percent complete will ever reach the finishing line.