In an effort to link Kashmir to the rest of the country, the Railways has put the Udhampur-Baramulla project on the fast track. The national transporter is expecting the commissioning of the project by 2021-22, and the completion of the world’s highest railway-arch bridge over River Chenab by mid- 2020.
The project is now being directly monitored by the Prime Minister’s Office for its faster completion. Its commissioning was earlier targeted for 2020, but the project got delayed.
Of the 272-km Udhampur-Baramulla rail line, nearly 111-km stretch between Katra and Banihal is incomplete. This stretch has around 97-km of tunnels and includes a 359-meter high bridge on Chenab, will be even taller than Eiffel Tower (324 m).
According to a senior official, around 80 per cent of the Chenab bridge is complete. The railway line is key to the upcoming development plans for the Valley.
The Chenab rail bridge, estimated to cost Rs 1,250-crore, will be the gateway of the Valley, connecting it with the rest of the country and helping in faster movement of security forces, as well as finished products. The Railways has used special quality structural steel in the construction of the bridge, which needs a high degree of precision and latest welding technology.
The bridge, according to the Railways, can withstand winds of up to 250 kmph. A “special painting scheme” to prevent rust is being used for the arch portion, which is designed considering parameters like fatigue, seismic effect, blast load, global stability, and composite action.
The Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla rail link was sanctioned way back in 1994-95 and declared a national project in July 2002. A 25-km line between Udhampur and Katra and a 136-km stretch between Banihal and Baramulla have already been commissioned, while the only remaining stretch is the Katra-Banihal section. This section is considered to be the world’s toughest stretch with 27 bridges and 37 tunnels.
The government has also surveyed for the completion of a new 39-km broad-gauge line between Baramulla and Kupwara, which is expected to cost around Rs 628 crore.