Annual budget allocation for rail infrastructure projects in J&K increased by 5 times this year: Centre
Says 97 km long tunnel on Katra-Banihal section will be longest transportation rail tunnel in India
Srinagar, Dec 20 (KNO): Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw informed the Lok Sabha Wednesday said that the annual budget allocation for infrastructure projects and safety of workers has increased by 5 times this year Jammu and Kashmir.
In a written reply to a question, the minister, as per the news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO) said that the annual budget allocation for infrastructure projects and safety of workers has witnessed substantial growth, with an average budget outlay of Rs 1044 crore per year from 2009 to 2014, signifying a noteworthy increase.
In 2023-24, he said that there has been a remarkable surge, reaching Rs 6003 crores, which is more than five times the earlier figures. He also said that the work of the new line in Jammu & Kashmir is being undertaken under Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link (USBRL) Project.
“Out of the total 272 Km of the project, 161 KM has already been commissioned. The work of Katra-Banihal (111 km) section has been taken up. Anticipated cost of the project is Rs 37,012 crore, against which, expenditure of Rs 34,261 crore has been incurred up to March, 2023 on the project. An Outlay of Rs 5,310 crore has been allocated for 2023-24,” he added.
“The USBRL project is, perhaps, the most difficult new railway line project undertaken in the country post-independence. The terrain passes through young Himalayas, which are full of geological surprises and numerous problems.
This section predominantly involves tunnelling i.e. 97.42 Km out of 111 Km (i.e. 87%) of length of Katra-Banihal section is in tunnels and maximum length of tunnel T-49 is 12.77 Km, which will be longest transportation railway tunnel in the country. Railway has made the world’s highest Railway Bridge over Chenab river in Reasi,” he added.
He further said that the iconic Chenab Bridge is 1315 m long having Arch span of 467 m and height of 359 m above river bed.
“Indian Railway’s first cable stayed bridge has been constructed over AnjiKhad. Its bridge deck is 331m above the river bed level and height of its Main pylon is 193m. Final Location Survey (FLS) has been sanctioned including Doubling of Baramulla-Banihal section (135.5km), New Line of Baramulla-Uri (50km) New Line of Sopore-Kupwara (33.7km), New Line of Awantipora-Shopian (27.6km) and New Line of Anantnag-Bijbehara-Pahalgam (77.5km),” he added.
He said that the USBRL Project has made substantial socio-economic contributions to the region, with employment generation being a significant aspect of its impact.
“The project has generated more than 553 lakh man-days of indirect employment so far. Another crucial facet of the project’s socio-economic development efforts has been the construction of over 215 km of approach roads, which include construction of a tunnel and 320 small bridges,” he added.
“At present, 9 pairs of trains are running over Kashmir valley section due to which travel time of passengers has been reduced and travel experience has also become more comfortable than bus services.
The passenger services and facilities are being improved by major redevelopment of Jammu Tawi railway station. To enhance travel experience of passengers, a Vistadome coach is attached to a special train being run in the Kashmir Valley. A Guest House operated by Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited is available at Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Katra railway station.
Catering services to the passengers travelling in trains are provided through pantry cars/mini pantry, train side vending and static units at enroute stations. In addition to this, passengers also have the facility to order food of their choice through e-catering services which are available at major en-route stations,” he added.
The minister said that to promote rail based tourism, Indian Railways have issued the ‘Bharat Gaurav Trains’ policy in November 2021, under which theme based tourist circuit trains are being run with the objective to showcase India’s rich cultural heritage and magnificent historical places.
As per this policy, service providers have full flexibility to decide the themes/itineraries for operation of Bharat Gaurav tourist circuit trains which may include tourist circuits of any part of India including Jammu and Kashmir based on market demand, commercial viability.
“In accordance with international norms, adequate safety provisions have been kept in the USBRL project. All tunnels having length more than 2 Km have been provided with mechanical ventilation systems to ensure air quality as per international norms. Firefighting system comprising of fire hydrants and fire extinguishers, to promptly address and contain potential fire incidents has been provided in all the tunnels. Proper access roads have been constructed to all escape tunnels and adits,” he added.
He further said that trains plying between Baramulla and Banihal are being escorted by railway protection force staff—(KNO)