The 111-kilomter-long Katra-Banihal section of Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link (USBRL) project of Indian Railways will have seven halting stations while 94 percent deck has been laid over world highest Chenab Bridge (arch bridge).

As per a news report, the work for holding cables being laid at India’s first-ever cable-stayed rail at Anji Khad. The project will be operational in 2023, an official said.

As per officials, work on the intervening 111 kilometers of Katra-Banihal section is going on in full swing despite challenging and inhospitable terrain.

Officials said that for the comfort of travellers and the local population of Reasi and Ramban districts, total seven railway stations have been approved on the section.

“Four railway stations including Reasi, Salal-A, Dugga and Basindadhar will be established in the jurisdiction of Reasi District while remaining three namely Sangaldan, Sumber and Arpinchala will be set up in Ramban district,” the official said, adding, “Some of these stations are partly located in tunnels or on bridges or both.”

“Moreover, Arpinchala station in Ramban is nearly complete while work on the other stations are ongoing at a fast pace,” he said.

Recently, Railway has achieved major milestone of breaking through the escape tunnel T-48 on the Katra–Banihal section USBRL project.

General Manager, Northern Railway, Ashutosh Gangal reviewed the pace and status of work at a high level meeting in Delhi.

“The line and level of the escape tunnel is precisely achieved in break-through. T-48 is an escape tunnel of length 9.694 kilometers long and 5.30 meters, dia, modified horseshoe shape,” Deepak Kumar, Chief Public Relations Officer, Railways said.

He further said that the tunnel is a link between Sumber station and Sangaldan station. This tunnel breakthrough will be a key milestone for the entire USBRL Project. Almost 90 percent work has been completed on the site in different sections.

“The section has 38 tunnels, including Tunnel T-49 with a length of 12.77 Km, with a combined length of 119 kilometers of which 160.52 kilometers of tunneling (95.47 Km main and 65.05 Km escape tunnel) have been completed totaling 80 percent completion of tunneling work. The lining work of the tunnel is going on at a fast pace,” the officer said.

The other works like construction of portals, ventilation of tunnels and signal and telecom works are also on-going simultaneously.

Similarly, the section boasts 927 major and minor bridges total 13 kilometers in length including the iconic Chenab bridge.

“The bridge stands 359 meters above the river bed and main arch work of the bridge was completed in April 2021, the officers said, adding, “1238 meter of the 1315 meter deck has already been accomplished totaling more than 94 percent deck laying work has been completed.”

Another important structure the Anji Bridge across the Anji Khad will be India’s first cable-stayed Railway Bridge.

“The main pillar has been erected and the deck work has been completed. The work of harnessing the deck with cables tied to the main pier is ongoing,” they said.

This was also informed that railway is conducting ballastless construction to decrease carbon footprint in Himalayas.

“The already operational 136 Km Banihal-Baramulla rail line is being electrified. This move will help in phasing out use of fossil fuel in train operation in the Kashmir valley. This will not only cut down on the train running cost, reduce carbon footprint and project Railways as a sustainable and eco-friendly mass transportation system,” the officials said.

“The electrification work of the Banihal-Budgam section is complete and work up to Baramulla is targeted to be completed by October 2022.”

Expressing satisfaction on the progress of work, Gangal exhorted that the construction work of the project should be completed at the earliest so that the Kashmir valley is connected to the rest of India through the Indian Railways network.

Pertinently, Manager Northern Railway (NR), Ashutosh Gangal in March this year called on the Chief Secretary Dr Arun Kumar Mehta and apprised him about the status of the ongoing works on USBRL.

GM Northern Railway briefed the Chief Secretary about the works that have been finished, or nearing completion, works under progress, and the adherence to the set timelines to dedicate the project to the people at the earliest.

The Chief Secretary was informed that it is expected that Kashmir valley would be connected to Jammu and rest of the country during 2023, providing efficient connectivity to Kashmir valley with other parts of the country by rail.

Moreover, the USBRL is a 272 kilometres long railway link project being built at a cost of Rs 28,000 crore under the Northern Railway zone. The project will connect Kashmir to the rest of India and is expected to be completed by 2023.

Out of 272 kilometres, the Quazigund-Baramulla (118 kms) and Banihal-Quazigund (18 kms) and Udhampur-Katra (25 kms) sections have already been commissioned.

The Katra-Banihal section which is 111 kilometres long is under construction.

Apart from the Chenab bridge, the USBRL rail link will also have India’s longest railway tunnel (T-49) at 12.75 kilometres. Pirpanjal tunnel (11.215 kms), the longest rail tunnel as of date, is also part of the USBRL project and has already been commissioned.

Yet another engineering marvel under construction is the Anji bridge which will be the first cable-stayed bridge of Indian Railways. The bridge is being constructed over Anjikhad, a tributary of Chenab river.