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Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link most difficult project: Vaishnaw

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New Delhi: The Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link (USBRL) project is perhaps the most difficult new railway line project undertaken in the country post-Independence, Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said on Wednesday.

“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,” Vaishnaw said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha.

Vaishnaw was responding to questions raised by three BJP MPs, Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, Bidyut Baran Mahato and Jugal Kishore Sharma, who asked the minister to provide details of the steps taken to extend the Indian Railways network in Jammu and Kashmir and how the said expansion is benefiting local communities and businesses.

“The work of the new line in Jammu and Kashmir is being undertaken under the USBRL project. Out of the total 272 km of the project, 161 km has already been commissioned,” Vaishnaw said.

He added, “The work on the Katra-Banihal (111 km) section has been taken up. Anticipated cost of the project is Rs 37,012 crore, against which, expenditure of ?34,261/- crore has been incurred up to March, 2023 on the project. An outlay of ?5,310 crore has been allocated for the year 2023-24.”

Talking about the challenges in the project, the railway minister said the Katra-Banihal section predominantly involves tunnelling.

According to him, 97.42 km out of 111 km, which is 87 per cent of the total length of Katra-Banihal section, is in tunnels and the maximum length of tunnel T-49 is 12.77 km, which will be the longest transportation railway tunnel in the country.

“Railway has made the world’s highest Railway Bridge over Chenab river in Reasi District of Jammu and Kashmir. The iconic Chenab Bridge is 1,315 metres long having arch span of 467 metre and height of 359 metre above river bed,” Vaishnaw said.

He added, “Indian Railways’ first cable-stayed bridge has been constructed over AnjiKhad. Its bridge deck is 331 metres above the river bed level and height of its main pylon is 193 metres.”

Besides the USBRL, Vaishnaw said that final location survey of the following lines have been sanctioned: 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).

Highlighting the socio-economic contributions of the USBRL project, the minister said that employment generation is 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 USBRL 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,” Vaishnaw said.

“At present, nine pairs of trains are running over the 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,” he said.

Vaishnaw also informed the Lok Sabha that in accordance with international norms, adequate safety provisions have been kept in mind for the USBRL project.

“All tunnels having length more than two km have been provided with mechanical ventilation systems to ensure air quality as per international norms,” he said.

Besides, according to him, a firefighting system consisting 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,” Vaishnaw said.

To ensure safety of passengers, he said that trains plying between Baramulla and Banihal are being escorted by RPF staff.

According to the railway minister, the expansion of the rail line in Jammu and Kashmir is benefiting the local community and businesses by improving transportation and connectivity, boosting tourism, and facilitating the movement of goods and services.

“It’s a positive development for the region,” Vaishnaw said.

 


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