New Delhi: Railways Minister Piyush Goyal reviewed the progress of the ongoing Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link (USBRL) National Project in Jammu & Kashmir. V.K. Yadav, CEO & Chairman Railway Board and Ashutosh Gangal, General Manager Northern Railway were also present in the meeting held via video conferencing on Wednesday, 30th December. Vijay Sharma, Chief Administrative Officer (Construction), USBRL Project apprised the Rail Minister about the latest status of work on the last leg of the project between Katra-Banihal, according to a press statement from the Ministry of Railways.
Expressing satisfaction over the progress of the project, Rail Minister Goyal said that the aspirations of the people of J&K have to be fulfilled by completing the project so that the region gets a good transportation system to remain connected to the rest of the country year-round. He called upon the engineers working on the project to expedite the remaining portion in mission mode. He also instructed them to complete the procurement of materials and permission procedures on time so that there is no delay in the construction of the line, as per the Railway Ministry’s statement.
Ashutosh Gangal, GM, Northern Railway shared with the Minister that in spite of Ramban and Reasi districts, where the project is under construction, being declared Covid Red and Orange zones, work on the projects continued following the Covid-19 SOPs. Artisan camps and isolation centres have been provided on sites. 366 people working on the various points had been detected with the virus, but all have recovered well, the Railways Ministry revealed.
The Ministry stated that the USBRL is a national project undertaken by the Indian Railways for construction of broad-gauge railway line through the Himalayas with the aim of connecting the Kashmir region with rest of the country, adding that the all-weather, comfortable, convenient, and cost effective mass transportation system is expected to be the catalyst for the overall development of the northernmost alpine region of the country.
Construction of the first three phases of the project has been completed and the line is in operational use for running of trains between Baramulla-Banihal in Kashmir valley and Jammu-Udhampur-Katra in the Jammu region. Work on the intervening 111 km Katra-Banihal section, the most arduous and treacherous portion due to its geology and extensive riverine system replete with deep gorges, is ongoing, the Rail Ministry stated, adding that there are several iconic bridges and tunnels coming up in this section. Most of the rail track is slated to be in tunnels or bridges in this section. In the absence of an effective surface transport system in this inhospitable region, Indian Railways had to first lay access roads to the tune of 205 km to reach the construction sites.
Three agencies – IRCON, KRCL, and Northern Railway – with extensive experience in the construction of rail lines are involved in this project. Many international agencies and premier Indian institutes like IIT-Roorkee, IIT-Delhi, DRDO, and Geological Survey of India (GSI) are providing expertise in planning and implementation. Several sets of tunnelling pieces of machinery and cranes have also been imported, the Ministry stated.
Presently, 95% of the arch work of the Chenab Bridge – the world’s tallest railway bridge – is complete, while work on the Anji Bridge – an asymmetric cable-stayed bridge – is on in full swing, the Ministry revealed. 81.21 km of the total 97.64 km main tunnelling, and 53.5 km out of the 60.5 km escape tunnel works have been completed. 12 mega and 10 minor bridges have been completed. Laying of the remaining 12 mega bridges and one more minor bridge is to be completed by 2021-22.
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