Reasi residents threaten agitation for station near world’s highest rail bridge
Reasi: Residents of Kauri in Reasi district, the home to world’s highest rail bridge over the Chenab, are up in arms in support of their demand for a railway station which they believe will safeguard the future of their coming generations after parting away their land for the project.
The 1.3-km Chenab rail bridge — located 359 metres above the riverbed and 35 metres higher than the iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris — forms a crucial link in the 111-km stretch from Katra to Banihal, which is part of the prestigious Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Railway Link (USBRL) project.
The work on the famed bridge is nearing completion but the railway station is still nowhere in sight, the Kauri residents said, seeking personal intervention of Railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw and Jammu and Kashmir Lt Governor Manoj Sinha.
“At the start of work on the bridge about 20 years ago, we were promised of railway station in our area to cater to the heavy rush of prospective tourists to the iconic bridge Saturday, we are feeling deceived as the dream shown to us to uplift our economy and secure the future of our children seems not being fulfilled,” local resident Angrez Singh told PTI.
He claimed that the railway officials had abandoned the plan to have a station near the notable bridge, citing “some technical issues.”
“Many people gave up their land for the project with a hope for a better future. They are rendered unemployed and the future of their children also looks bleak,” Singh said.
The base of the steel and concrete arch bridge between Bakkal and Kauri, 42 km from Reasi town, was completed in November 2017, allowing for the start of the construction of the main arch which was done in April 2021.
Another milestone on the bridge was achieved in August last year when the overarch deck of the bridge was completed with a ‘Golden Joint’, paving the way for the laying of the track which was finally completed recently.
“Without railway station, we will not allow the train to cross the bridge. We will sit on the track and let them pass the train over our bodies,” said Rajinder Singh, a retired Captain.
He said the railway station in Kauri is going to benefit people of six tehsils of Reasi district.
“We have already submitted memorandums in support of our demand to higher authorities many times. If anything untoward happens, the government will be responsible,” he said.
Panch Om Prakash said it is very “unfortunate that nobody in the government is listening to the residents of Kauri”.
“If our demand is not met, we will boycott the coming elections to convey our resentment. The lack of a railway station in Kauri will have a negative impact on five lakh people,” he said.
Out of the total 272-km Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail link (USBRL) project, 161 km was commissioned in phases with first phase 118-km Qazigund-Baramulla section commissioned in October 2009 followed by 18-km Banihal-Qazigund in June 2013 and 25-km Udhampur-Katra in July 2014.
The work on the project, billed as the most challenging railway infrastructure project being undertaken post-independence, was started in 1997 and has missed several deadlines amid huge cost escalations.
The under-construction 111-km Katra-Banihal section is likely to be made operational early next year to connect Kashmir with the rest of the country by train.