Train services are likely to be restored soon in the Kashmir Valley, more than two months after they were suspended following the Centre’s August 5 move to revoke Article 370 that accorded special status to J&K, a senior official said.
“ All services had been suspended since August and no trains were running. Train services between Baramulla [Kashmir] and Banihal [Jammu] will be restored very soon, hopefully within a week or so. Railway line from Banihal to Katra will also be ready once the construction of the Chenab bridge is finished,” Railway Protection Force (RPF) chief Arun Kumar told HT.
RPF is tasked with safeguarding railway property and providing security to passengers.
The development assumes significance as it comes days after postpaid mobile phone services were restored across all networks in the Valley.
According to senior railway ministry officials, the Indian Railways has lost “substantial” revenue since the suspension of services in August.
“We have evacuated nearly 60,000 people, mostly students from National Institute of Technology, Srinagar, Jammu and Udhampur in the initial days. People have to come to Katra by state transport buses and then move to other parts of the country. We are ready to resume services anytime but it is subject to clearances,” Rajeev Aggarwal, divisional railway manager, Ferozepur, had said on October 3.
The railway has already announced that special unit — Commando for Railway Security (CORAS) — will be deployed at sensitive stations, like Jammu and Pathankot, on the 654-km route of the Delhi-Katra Vande Bharat Express to respond to any security situation.
Union home minister Amit Shah had on October 3 had flagged off the inaugural Vande Bharat Express, the state-run transporter’s first semi-high speed train, at New Delhi station. The train brings down the travel time between Delhi and Katra, the last station on the way to Vaishno Devi temple, to eight hours from the earlier 12 hours.
Shah called it Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s big gift for J&K, which would bring development to the region and boost religious tourism.
Railways minister Piyush Goyal had also said the Centre plans to have railway connectivity between Kashmir and Kanyakumari, the country’s southernmost point, before August 2022.
The government plan involves a 272-km long rail line from Udhampur to Baramulla joining the Kashmir valley with the railways network under Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link project (USBRL). The 111-km-long railway stretch between Katra and Banihal, currently under construction, will connect the Kashmir Valley with the rest of the country.
Of the total length of 272 km, work has been completed on 16-km stretch. Ministry officials said almost 60% of work has been finished in the Katra-Banihal section.