‘Single Train Ticket’ To Kashmir Soon

‘Single Train Ticket’ To Kashmir Soon

11 January 2014
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Arteev Sharma

Jammu: Kashmir will soon be accessible to tourists by train as the J&K Government and Northern Railway have inked an agreement to introduce 'single train ticket' system that will help tourists from all over the country and foreign nations to reach Kashmir directly from other parts of the country. Under the agreement, tourists buying railway tickets to Kashmir will have a 'complimentary' bus ride from Udhamur to Banihal stretch as tourists will disembark from the train at the Udhampur railway station and board State Road Transport Corporation (SRTC) buses to Banihal from where they will again take a train to Srinagar or Baramulla. The facility, however, will be available only after the inauguration of prestigious 25-km Udhampur-Katra rail line, which is likely to be inaugurated by the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in the first week next month. So far, the people have train facility only up to Udhampur from Jammu and other parts of the country, while the train in Kashmir chug up to Banihal from Baramulla. “We have recently signed an agreement with the Northern Railway, under which the tourists intending to visit Kashmir from anywhere will have to buy a single train ticket. They will get off from train at the Udhampur railway station and will be taken to the Banihal railway station in brand new buses to be deployed by the SRTC after checking the train tickets of passengers,” Choudhary Mohammad Ramzan, Minister for Transport, told The Tribune. He said the Transport Department was planning to purchase new buses, which would be deployed between Udhampur and Banihal. “We are hopeful that the system would be implemented soon after the inauguration of the Udhampur-Katra rail section,” Ramzan said. The minister said the tourists could also board buses from the Katra railway station to reach Banihal for their onward journey by train. On August 19 last year, the Ferozepur division of the Northern Railway had written to all stations falling under its jurisdiction to make suitable arrangements for the start of train service between Udhampur and Katra section after giving its approval to the opening of this rail link. The authorities are still awaiting the final tests, inspection and certification to be conducted by the Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) before the inauguration of the track and throwing it open for passenger trains. Sources said the CRS was likely to inspect the Udhampur-Katra rail section on January 17 and may accord his clearance. “The Railways is planning to run at least six trains to Katra, the base camp of Vaishno Devi shrine, which was visited by over 9.3 million pilgrims last year,” sources said. The survey on a railway project between the Jammu region and the Kashmir valley was conducted in 1998. The construction process began in 1999. It was announced that Katra town would have direct train connectivity by 2005. The track to Katra was ready by 2007, but the inauguration got delayed because of seepage in major tunnels en route. The 131-km rail track between Katra and Banihal, which has turned out to be a challenging task for the Railways, was delayed by almost a decade after its alignment was changed for safety reasons a few years back. J&K Government, Railways ink agreement Under the agreement, tourists buying railway tickets to Kashmir will have a 'complimentary' bus ride from Udhamur to Banihal stretch as tourists will disembark from the train at the Udhampur railway station and board State Road Transport Corporation (SRTC) buses to Banihal from where they will again take a train to Srinagar or Baramulla The facility, however, will be available only after the inauguration of 25-km Udhampur-Katra rail line, which is likely to be inaugurated by the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the first week of next month