Prime Minister flags off Kashmir’s dream trainOctober 11th, 2008 - 12:31 pm ICT by IANS
Srinagar, Oct 11 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Saturday inaugurated the first ever train service in the Kashmir valley by flagging it off from the Nowgam railway station near summer capital Srinagar.United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Union Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, Union Water Resources Minister Saif-ud-Din Soz, Jammu and Kashmir Governor N.N. Vohra, former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti were among those present at the inauguration.
“Manmohan Singh Zindabad, Lalu Prasad Yadav Zindabad”, the people present at the heavily guarded station shouted as the train rolled slowly on the track to begin its historic journey to south Kashmir’s Anantnag town.
The entire area around the Nowgam railway station had been taken over by the security forces and entry was allowed only to those holding specially issued passes.
“I was not allowed to reach the venue of the inaugural function as security forces demanded a vehicle pass even after I showed them my invitation to the function,” a civil servant told IANS.
The prime minister and the railway minister waved green flags to signal the inauguration of the flower bedecked train. No dignitary made any speech during the function, which lasted for less than half an hour.
Part of the prestigious Rs.112.70 billion (Rs.11,270 crores) Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla rail link project connecting the Kashmir valley to the rest of India, the 116 km Qazigund-Baramulla section has been laid at a cost of Rs.22.70 billion.
Having a rail link between the valley and the outside world has been a dream of the locals for decades.
To begin with, trains will run between the central Rajwansher (Budgam district) to south Kashmir’s Anantnag district, covering a distance of 66 km. The fare for travel between Rajwansher to Anantnag will be Rs.15.
The regular train service will commence Sunday. The scheduled stops of the train will be Budgam, Srinagar, Pampore, Kakapora, Awantipora, Panjgam and Bijbehara. There will be eight coaches in the train.
“Each coach can accommodate 90 passengers and the compartment meant for physically challenged persons will have wider doors. For panoramic view, wide windows of unbreakable and splinter proof poly carbonate sheets have been provided while the doorways will be sliding,” a northern railway official said.
“Anti skid flooring has been provided in the coaches and distinctive and attractive colour schemes have been adopted. Like the state-of-the art Delhi Metro, public information system with display and automatic announcement are included in the coaches that have pneumatic suspension in the bogies for better riding comfort.
“The coaches have executive chair car type seating arrangement with fire resistant grade upholstery and reclining mechanism. In view of the peculiar climate of the valley, the 1400 horse power diesel engine for the train has been provided with heating system for quick and trouble free starting in winters.” he said.
The driver’s cabin has heating and de-fogging units and is fitted with single lookout glass to give wider view to the driver. Snow cutting type cattle guard is attached at the driving end of the train for snow clearance from tracks during winter.
“The departure and the arrival timings of the train at different stations have been worked out in such a manner that commuters do not face any inconvenience. Endeavour has been to ensure that people are benefited by the plying of the service and an alternate facility for transportation is available to them,” the official added.
The 66 km distance between south and central Kashmir will be covered by the train in one hour and 35 minutes.
The train will leave Budgam at 7.10 a.m. and arrive at Anantnag on 8.45 a.m. In the afternoon, the train will depart from Rajwansher at 2.25 p.m. and reach Anantnag at 4 p.m.
From the Anantnag side, it will leave at 9.05 a.m. and arrive Rajwansher at 10.40 a.m. In the afternoon, the departure timing from Anantnag will be 4.15 p.m. to reach Rajwansher at 5.50 p.m.