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The Kashmir Railway (Hindi: कश्मीर रेलवे, Urdu: کشمیر ریلوے Kaśmīr rēlavē) in India is being built to connect the state of Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of the country. Officially termed the Jammu Udhampur Srinagar Baramulla Railway Link (JUSBRL), the railway starts from Jammu and will travel for 345 km (214 mi) to Baramulla on the northwestern edge of the Kashmir Valley. The route crosses major earthquake zones, and is subjected to extreme temperatures of cold and heat and inhospitable terrain, making it an extremely challenging engineering project.
Forming a part of Firozpur division of the Northern Railway zone, the line has been under construction since 1983 by various railway companies. It will link the state's winter capital of Jammu with the summer capital of Srinagar and beyond. The project has had a long and chequered history but serious progress was made only after it was declared a National Project in 2002. The scheduled date of completion was 15 August 2007. However, unforeseen complications have pushed back the deadline to 2017 at the earliest.
1898: Maharaja Pratap Singh first explored the possibility of a railway line connecting Jammu with Srinagar. For various reasons including complications with the British government and political frictions this was put on hold.
1902: Britain proposed a rail link following the Jhelum River connecting Srinagar to Rawalpindi. This was not popular as the residents of the state lived mostly in Jammu and Srinagar and interacted via the more southerly Moghul road. Politics did not favour this proposal.
1905: Britain again proposed a link between Rawalpindi and Srinagar. Maharaja Pratap Singh approved a rail line between Jammu and Srinagar via Reasi through Moghul road. This audacious line was to have involved a 2 ft (610 mm) or 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) gauge railway climbing all the way to the Moghul road pass at 11,000 feet (3,353 m) over the Pir Panjal Range. This can be compared to the present day Pir Panjal Railway Tunnel (Banihal Tunnel) at approximately 7,000 feet (2,134 m). As planned it would have been electric-powered and would have used the mountain streams as a source of hydro-electric power.
In retrospect it was perhaps just as well that it was not built. Though it would have been spectacular, the narrow gauge and high-altitude pass would have meant it was not all weather and also constrained to low speed and capacity, similar to the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway.
1947: With partition Jammu was disconnected from India railways and a new line from Pathankot to Jammu had to be laid. It was proposed that this be extended to Srinagar but the preliminary survey of the Pir Panjal quickly squashed the thought, especially for a poor country with higher priorities.
1983: Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi kicked off the line from Jammu to Udhampur. An optimistic schedule of five years and a budget of 50 crore (US$9.5 million) was set. As detailed below what happened to this line amply illustrates the wisdom of the earlier planners who had abandoned their plans when faced with reality.
1994: Railway minister declared the need for a railway line to Baramulla and the Kashmir valley. Upon further review it was revealed that this would be a 'hanging' railway running from Qazigund to Srinagar and on to Baramulla. The line from Katra to Qazigund through the mountains still looked unattainable.
July 2002: The Vajpayee Government declared the line a National Project. This meant that it would be constructed and completed irrespective of cost. The central government would fund the entire project. This was important, as the Railways did not have the now estimated cost of 6,000 crore (US$1.1 billion) for the entire project. By the Railways' allocation it would have taken 60 years to complete the project. A challenging deadline of August 15, 2007, Independence Day, was also set.
13 April 2005: The Jammu-Udhampur line, 55 km (34 mi) long, was inaugurated, 21 years and 515 crore (US$97.3 million) after its commencement, marking the completion of "Leg 0". The line had 20 major tunnels and 158 bridges. Its longest tunnel was 2.5 km (1.6 mi) and its highest bridge was 77 m (253 ft) - the highest railway bridge in India. This is in the relatively easy Shivalik Hills.
2008: The Ministry of Railways ordered cancellation of the project on the existing alignment between Katra and Qazigund, due to suspected geological instabilities. It instructed KRCL to stop all work on the section, including the Chenab Bridge, and to terminate all contracts issued for work on the section, pending consideration of major changes in the alignment. The Railway Board constituted a high-level committee to examine the feasibility of "Leg 2" of the project and to rework the alignment through the Pir Panjal Mountains, proposing to undertake a fresh survey for construction of the line on a shorter alignment.
11 October 2008: The first isolated section of 66 km (41 mi) between Manzhama and Anantnag on Leg 3 was inaugurated, 14 months behind schedule. The train service will operate twice a day in either direction. Complications continued to plague the connection to the plains.
June 2009: Work on the section between Katra and Qazigund resumed after the committee set up to review the alignment approved the existing one with minor changes. Additional geo-technical tests of the rock strata and changes to other portions of the alignment changes were to be reviewed.
|Kashmir Railway route map|
Schematic map of the Kashmir Railway showing the major
The USBRL project is divided into four sections:
Leg 1 has repeatedly missed promised opening dates including December 2005, December 2006 and May 2009. Work on the section, which had been suspended for two years due to water logging inside a tunnel, resumed in September 2009, and the latest estimate is 2013.
The Kashmir Railway is perhaps the most difficult new railway line project undertaken on the Indian subcontinent by government of India. The terrain passes through the young Himalayas, which are full of geological surprises and numerous problems. The alignment for the line presents one of the greatest railway engineering challenges ever faced, with the only contest coming from the Qingzang Railway in Tibet that was completed in 2006 and crosses permanently frozen ground and climbs to more than 5,000 m (16,000 ft) above sea level. While the temperatures of the Kashmir Railway area are not as severe as Tibet, it does still experience extreme winters with heavy snowfalls. However, what makes the route even more complex is the requirement to pass through the Himalayan foothills and the mighty Pir Panjal range, with most peaks exceeding 15,000 ft (4,600 m) in height.
The route includes many bridges, viaducts and tunnels. The railway is expected to cross a total of over 750 bridges and pass through over 100 km (62 mi) of tunnels, the longest of which is about 11 km (6.8 mi) in length. The greatest engineering challenges involve the crossing of the Chenab river, which involves building a 1,315 m (4,314 ft) long bridge 359 m (1,178 ft) above the river bed, and the crossing of the Anji Khad, which involves building a 657 m (2,156 ft) long bridge 186 m (610 ft) above the river bed. The Chenab Bridge will be the highest railway structure of its kind in the world, 35 m higher than the tip of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Both bridges are to be simple span bridges. Cor-Ten Steel is planned to be used to provide an environment friendly appearance and eliminate the need to paint the bridge. The design and structure is very similar to the New River Gorge Bridge. The project is being managed by the Konkan Railway Corporation. Completion is scheduled for 2012, four years after the first isolated section of the route was opened for local passenger services, and it requires the use of 26,000 t of steel.
All tunnels including the New Banihal Tunnel will be constructed using the New Austrian Tunneling method. Numerous challenges have been encountered while tunneling through the geologically young and unstable Shivalik mountains. In particular water ingress problems have been seen in the Udhampur to Katra section. This has required some drastic solutions using steel arches and several feet of shotcrete.
Even though the line is being built through a mountainous region, a ruling gradient of 1% has been set to provide a safe, smooth and reliable journey. More importantly bankers will not be required, making the journey quicker and smoother. It will be built to the Indian standard broad gauge of 1,676 millimetres (5.499 ft) gauge, laid on concrete sleepers with continuous welded rail and with a minimum curve radius of 676 m. Maximum line speed will be 100 kilometres per hour (62 mph). Provision for future doubling will be made on the major bridges. Additionally provisions for future electrification will be made, though the line will be operated with diesel locomotives initially, as Kashmir is an electricity scarce region at present. There will be 30 stations on the full route, served by 10–12 trains per day initially.
The Kashmir line will connect with the Indian Railways railhead at Jammu, where a 55 km access route has been built to Udhampur.
Passenger services will be provided by the new aerodynamic High Power diesel multiple units, which have certain special features incorporated into them. The air-conditioned coaches have wide windows for a panoramic view, anti-skid flooring, sliding doorways, heating facilities, an attractive colour scheme and executive class reclining seats inside. The driver's cabin has a heating and defogging unit to take care of cold climatic conditions and is fitted with single lookout glass windows to give a wider view. A snow-cutting type cattle guard has been attached at the driving end of the train for clearing snow from the tracks during winter. In view of the peculiar climate of the valley, the 1,400-horsepower diesel engine for the train has been provided with a heating system for a quick and trouble-free start in the winters. A public information system with display and announcement facilities are included in the coaches which have pneumatic suspension for better riding comfort. There is also a compartment for physically challenged people with wider doors.
Freight rolling stock for the new route will be from the existing national fleet. Freight services conveying grain and petroleum products will run in between the 10–12 passengers services that are planned to operate daily.
Maintenance of all rolling stock and locomotives will be at the newly built Badgam workshop just north of Srinagar.
Three-aspect colour light signaling is being installed on the route to maintain train safety. GSM-R equipment may be installed in the future to improve the quality of the system. There has also been mention of the Konkan Railway Corporation's ACD (Anti-Collision Device) being supplied for equipment on the line.
Security for the line has been a major concern, with the regions the line passes through continuing to face terrorist challenges. The presence of the international border with Pakistan close by aggravates these challenges. Plans for close circuit cameras at all major bridges, tunnels and railway stations have been made. Lighting is provided on all major bridges and inside tunnels. Additionally a special security detail to protect the infrastructure has been contemplated.
June 2004 — Sudhir Kumar Pundir, an IRCON Engineer and his brother Sanjay were kidnapped and murdered by terrorists in the valley.
June 2005 — Altaf Hussain, A laborer working in a Tunnel at Tathyar (HCC) was killed by a collapse. Two others were injured.
16 May 2007 — Fancy Akther 09, daughter of Mushtaq Ahmad Wagay and Khushboo Akther 07, daughter of Mohammad Ayub Wani. Drowned in a ditch constructed by Railway Company.
14 Feb 2008 — A Nepali labourer Tika Ram Balwari son of Tuya Narayan was killed after a boulder hit him in at Uri Varmul, presumably on the Kashmir rail project for HCC.
18 Apr 2008 — Six labourers of a private company, engaged with the Katra-Qazigund railway line project, were killed and two others received injuries when a tipper carrying them rolled down into a deep gorge in Lower Juda Morh near Kouri in Reasi district late at night. Besides Tara Chand, others have been identified as Resham Singh and Shambhu Ram, both residents of Pattian in Reasi, Dhani Ram, Sandeep Lal and Vishno, residents of Nepal. 
27 Mar 2011 — Two workers, Abdul Rahman (34) and Jumma Baksh (24), were killed at an under-construction railway bridge over the Chenab in Reasi district as a basket attached to a crane carrying them unhooked and fell from a height of more than 100 metres. 
Dec 2010 — Railways complete construction of crucial tunnel in Sangaldam between the Katra-Qazigund 
Feb 2011 — It was reported by an Indian news channel that there was a consensus among the top railway officials of the country that the present rail alignment of the project was not ideal.
Oct 2011 — Banihal-Qazigund railway tunnel, Pir Panjal Railway Tunnel, the 10.96 km long railway tunnel, passes through the Pir Panjal Range of middle Himalayas in Jammu and Kashmir. It is a part of its Udhampur - Srinagar - Baramulla rail link project, opened in October 2011, India's longest and Asia's second longest railway tunnel and reduced the distance between Quazigund and Banihal to only 11 km .
Jan 2012 — The Jammu and Kashmir government has said that Qazigund-Banihal and Udhampur-Katra railway tracks, connecting Kashmir with rest of the country through rail-line are likely to be completed by December. 
May 2012 — About eight years after the contract for design and built of world’s tallest railway bridge was awarded to AFCONS Infrastructure Ltd, the excavation for foundation of the 1315 meter long bridge across river Chenab on Katra-Banihal Section of the prestigious Udhampur-Baramulla railway project has begun in Reasi district while as Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) has finalized the blast load parameters for the superstructure of the bridge.
Two other lines in the State are approved or under construction.
The Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh asked the railway minister to expand the Bhanupali-Bilaspur-Beri railway through Mandi-Manali to Leh. This would increase tourism and security in Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh by making transportation into the region faster.
Following an examination of the feasibility report for the proposed Bilaspur-Mandi-Leh Railway line, the railway ministry forwarded the recommendation to the Planning Commission of India for its approval.