Much-awaited strategically crucial Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Railway Link (USBRL) project, aimed at connecting Kashmir with the rest of the country by train, will be completed in February 2024.
Its only work to be finished pertained to tunnelling work of 200 m in two tunnels.
As a reiteration of the announcement of the Union Railway Minister, the latest confirmation vis-à-vis the scheduled completion of prestigious project, which earlier witnessed many hiccups and skipped many deadlines due to weather and geological challenges, has come from the General Manager (GM) Northern Railways Shobhan Chaudhuri.
“Most of the work on the project is complete except two tunnelling works of 200 m in two tunnels. The project is destined for completion in February 2024 as announced by Minister of Railways on his visit to Chenab bridge,” stated Chaudhuri, in his maiden press conference, after joining as GM Northern Railway in April 2023, at the Headquarter office of Northern Railway at Baroda House, New Delhi on Monday, while detailing about the status of USBRL project.
On March 26 this year, the Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw during the maiden inspection of the world’s highest rail (arch) bridge (part of USBRL project), over mighty Chenab at Bakkal-Kauri in Reasi district had said that the strategically very significant and crucial (USBRL) project would be completed by the end of this year (2023) or by January-February 2024.
By April end, Northern Railway had completed the laying of all 96 cables of Anji Khad bridge- India’s first cable-stayed rail bridge, being constructed in Reasi as part of USBRL project and had earned the praise of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Prime Minister’s word of appreciation came after the Union Railway Minister had announced that it (bridge) was ready in eleven months. Cable strands were installed in a record period of 11 months from June 2022 to April 2023 despite constraints.
Northern Railway officials had stated that, being constructed over Anji Khad, connecting tunnel T2 on Katra side to tunnel T3 on Reasi side, this bridge would be completed in May this year.
Chenab bridge, Anji bridge and various tunnels are the major components of the USBRL project. The project is commissioned by the Northern Railways and is being executed by Konkan Railway Corporation Limited (KRCL) and Hindustan Construction Company.
“After connecting with the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla train service, a specially built Vande Bharat train will be introduced in this rail section as per the vision and determination of the Prime Minister to connect all parts of India with ‘Vande Bharat’ and also end physical and psychological distance with J&K,” Vaishnaw had announced.
Chaudhuri, in his presser, while presenting the achievements of Northern Railway (NR) in the last financial year, also shared the future plans of NR in the coming year in terms of safety, punctuality, increasing the share of goods transportation by Railways and creation of Infrastructure. He also emphasized on energy efficiency, shifting from diesel to electric system in train operations and concern for the environment, which included harnessing solar energy and water recycling and rainwater harvesting.
On increasing the speed of trains the GM said, ‘The portions of track on which the trains are to be operated at high speed will be provided with boundary walls to prevent crossing of tracks by cattle and humans. Manned level crossings are being replaced with ROBs/RUBs to facilitate smooth movement of rail and road traffic.” He also announced that Railways was also going to run a hydrogen train in the heritage Kalka-Shimla section. This would reduce pollution in the fragile Himalayan ecosystem.
He called upon the media persons to help popularize Railways as the preferred mode of goods transportation. He said, “It is the least polluting, can carry goods in bulk, safest mode of transportation with assured and timely delivery.”