Rail link to Kashmir Valley may have to be realigned

February 15th, 2009 - 12:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Jammu, Feb 15 (IANS) The proposed 70-km rail link between Katra in the Jammu region and Qazigund in Kashmir Valley may have to be realigned because of geological obstacles, pushing the project cost upwards.

Work on the Katra-Qazigund track, part of the 290-km Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Railway Link (USBRL) project, was stopped last November when developers encountered geological obstacles.

According to a railway official who requested anonymity, seepage and caving in of tunnels were posing severe challenges on the Katra-Qazigund link. “The re-alignment will cost Rs.2,000 crore (Rs.20 billion) extra,” he told IANS.

“About 100 km of approach roads to the construction of track, bridges and tunnels is ready. Now, the re-alignment of the track, if required, will definitely lead to losses, cost escalation and delays in the project,” the official told IANS here.

The USBRL project was slated to be completed by August 2007 on an investment of Rs.110 billion. However, geological obstacles and engineering challenges have delayed the project and pushed up the total cost, officials said.

Now the cost is likely to cross Rs.300 billion and in all likelihood the project will not be completed by 2020.

A 30-member team consisting of a parliamentary panel and railway experts recently visited Jammu and Kashmir to assess the situation.

The Konkan Railway and state-run IRCON India International are executing the project with the help of Swiss and German consultants. The line starts from Udhampur, 55 km north of Jammu, and goes to Baramulla in the north-western edge of the Kashmir valley.

Over 100 km of track in the valley has almost been completed. “This project throws up many challenges of inhospitable mountainous terrain. We expect to build over 750 bridges and 100 km of tunnels. The longest tunnel is about 11 km long,” the official said.

“The greatest engineering challenges involve the crossing of the Chenab river, which requires building a 1,315-metre-long bridge, and the crossing of the Anji Khad, which involves building a 657-metre-long bridge,” he said.

“The Chenab bridge will be the highest railway structure of its kind in the world, 35 metres higher than the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris,” the official added.

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