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Train to Kashmir in 2008-09

Srinagar, Tuesday, February 26, 2008:

The complete construction of a railway line in Indian administered Kashmir will be completed by 2008-09, Indian railways minister Laloo Prasad Yadav said Tuesday.

He was introducing the Railway budget 2008-09 in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Indian bicameral parliament.

Yadav said that the railway line between Kakapora area of south Kashmir and Budgam district of central Kashmir has already been completed.

New Delhi has been planning a better connectivity to Kashmir since decades.

Former Indian prime minister, Indira Gandhi had promised train to Kashmir when she was in power.

However the project never materialised despite the interest of New Delhi which wanted a better connectivity to Kashmir, primarily for better access of its troopers to the area, which has its borders with India's nuclear neighbours Pakistan and China.

New Delhi has a long history of strained relations with both Islamabad and Beijing.

Kashmir is connected to India only through a fair weather 294 km long Srinagar-Jammu highway, which often gets blocked with heavy rainfall or light snowfall.

The project was first proposed by oppressive Dogra ruler Maharaja Pratap Singh in 1898. He had wanted a rail link to Srinagar, but no headway was made. The ruler used to shuttle between Srinagar and Jammu, the summer and winter capital to escape harsh cold in Srinagar winter and scratching heat in Jammu summers.

In 2001, the then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee declared the proposed rail link to Kashmir as a "national project".

The Rs 11,000-crore project envisages laying tracks from Udhampur in Jammu to Baramulla in north Kashmir, the entire 290-km route. Now, trains end at Udhampur.

Work on the stretch, undertaken by Konkan Railway, involves construction of 80 tunnels, including one that will run for 12 km — the longest in India.

"Besides a 1.3-km bridge on the river Chenab at a height of 359 m from the riverbed is being constructed. This will be the highest railway structure in the world," a senior railway officer said.

In addition to the tracks, 500 km of roads will be constructed to access the rail links from various places.

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