Trains To Run Up To Katra From July

23 June 2014
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Devinder Thakur

Katra: The travel to the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine will become faster and comfortable as trains are expected to run up to Katra, the base camp for the shrine, from July this year. 'The work on the difficult route is complete and it will be opened for trains as the Railways have got security clearance from the Commissioner of Railway Safety,' said Neeraj Sharma, Chief Public Relations Officer, Northern Railway. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to flag off a passenger train from Katra after the Railways throws open the 25-km Udhampur-Katra rail link. Sharma said, 'We are preparing for the VVIPs visit to Katra between June 30 and July 9 for the flag-off ceremony of a passenger train from Katra after the Railways opens the 25-km Udhampur-Katra rail link.' After the commissioning of the new route, the pilgrims will be able to reach the base camp of the shrine without having to break their journey at Jammu. The train services up to Katra will prove to be a boon for an estimated 10 million devotees visiting the shrine every year. Till now, the pilgrims have depended on road transport. The Udhampur-Katra rail route - constructed at a cost of Rs 1,060 crore -passes through a hostile terrain, making it a challenging project. The most difficult task for the Railways was to lay the tracks on the 3.1-km tunnel on the route. To begin with, two trains - the Delhi-Katra Express and the Kalka-Katra Express - will run on the section. More trains will be added in the coming months, sources said. No final decision has been taken on the number of trains which will run up to Katra, an official said, adding that once the line is operational, any train coming to Udhampur can be extended to Katra depending on the passenger traffic. The Udhampur-Katra line has seven tunnels and over 30 small and big bridges, including a 185-foot tunnel. The Katra station has modern facilities, including a tourist guide counter, cloak room, waiting hall, VIP lounge, escalators, lifts and parking space. Boon for pilgrims: * The devotees will now directly reach Katra without having to break journey at Udhampur. * It takes 3 hours to travel from Jammu to Katra by road. Travelling by train will take 45 minutes. * To begin with, two trains - the Delhi-Katra Express and the Kalka-Katra Express - will run on the Udhampur-Katra section. More trains will be added in the coming months. * The Udhampur-Katra rail line has seven tunnels and over 30 small and big bridges, including a 185-foot tunnel.