After a prolonged wait, Katra has got its first rail link. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday inaugurated the Udhampur-Katra rail link by flagging of a train which he suggested be named as Shree Shakti Express.
The train to Katra near the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine, is part of the 292 kilometre Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla railway line that would eventually connect Kashmir with the rest of the country.
The 25 km stretch from Udhapmur to Katra has cost Rs 1100 crore and has taken nearly 12 years to be made. The train will pass through 10 tunnels covering a distance of 10.9 km. All tunnels are illuminated and the longer tunnels have been provided state of art ventilation and systems for safety and rescue. The tunnel number 23 is the longest on the section having a length of 3.120 km.
It passes through 36 bridges with the tallest bridge being 85 meters high.
The rail link crosses number of rivers, nallahs, canals, channels, khads and watercourses in addition to number of roads, cart paths and footpaths. The rail route over river Jhajjar has the highest pier height of 85 metres and the longest single span of steel girder bridge of 154 metres.
This Railway line is considered to be an engineering marvel. The shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi is visited nearly 10 million devotees every year.
The rail-link passes through the Himalayas, and due to the difficult terrain, the construction had been divided into 4 phases. Jammu-Udhampur section, Anantnag to Rajwansher, Rajwansher to Baramulla and Quazigund to Anantnag were inaugurated by former PM Manmohan Singh.
The 53 km-long Jammu-Udhampur rail line is already operational and once the Udhampur-Katra line, which is a part of the Kashmir rail link project, is made operational, the trains will be able to come up to Katra directly. That would enable pilgrims headed to the Vaishno Devi shrine to travel directly to the base camp at Katra.
Jammu-Udhampur section (53 Km) was inaugurated in April 2005 by Manmohan Singh
Anantnag to Rajwansher (66 KM) was inaugurated in October 2008 by Manmohan Singh
Rajwansher to Baramulla (35 KM) was inaugurated in February 2009 by Sonia Gandhi
Quazigund to Anantnag (18 KM) was inaugurated in October 2009 by Manmohan Singh
Udhampur-Katra (25 KM) has been completed and will be commissioned on 4 July 2014 which will be inaugurated by PM Narendra Modi
Katra to Banihal (110 KM) is under construction and is to be completed by 2017-18.