Kashmir Railway


Kashmir Railway

The Kashmir Railway is a railway line being built in India to connect the state of Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of the country. The Project officially coded USBRL (Udhampur Srinagar Baramulla Railway Link) starts from the city of Udhampur, convert|55|km|mi north of Jammu, and travels for convert|290|km|mi to the city of Baramulla on the northwestern edge of the Kashmir Valley. The route crosses major earthquake zones, and is subjected to extreme temperatures of cold and heat, as well as inhospitable terrain, making it an extremely challenging engineering project.

The Kashmir Railway has been under construction since 1994 by various railway companies in India. When completed this line will link the city of Jammu in the Northern plains of India with city of Srinagar in the Himalayan Valleys and beyond. This project has had a long and chequered history but as of 2006 serious progress is being made after it was declared a National Project in 2002. The scheduled date of completion was August 15, 2007. The first section of route (Budgam-Nowgam) was symbollically tested in September 2008 [http://www.dailyexcelsior.com/web1/08sep11/index.html] . However several unforeseen complications have pushed back the final completion deadline to some time in 2012 so a through service from central India to Kashmir will not be possible till then is possible.

History

1898: Maharaja Pratap Singh first explored the possibility of a railway line connecting Jammu with Srinagar. For various reasons including complications with the British government and political frictions this was put on hold.

1902: Britain proposes a rail link following the Jhelum River connecting Srinagar to Rawalpindi. This was not popular as the residents of the state lived mostly in Jammu and Srinagar and interacted via the more southerly Moghul road. Politics did not favour this proposal.

1905: Britain again proposes a link between Rawalpindi and Srinagar. Maharaja Pratap Singh approves rail line between Jammu and Srinagar via Reasi through Moghul road. This audacious line was to have involved a 2'-0" (610 mm) or 2'-6" (763 mm) gauge railway climbing all the way to the Moghul road pass at convert|11000|ft|m over the Pir Panjal Range. This can be compared to the present day Banihal Tunnel at approximately convert|15000|ft|m. As planned it would have been electric-powered and would have used the mountain streams as a source of hydro-electric power.

In retrospect it was perhaps just as well that it was not built. Though it would have been spectacular, the low gauge and elevated pass would have meant it was not all weather and been constrained low speed and capacity similar to the impractical Darjeeling Himalayan Railway.

1947: With partition Jammu was disconnected from the united India Rail grid and a new line from Pathankot to Jammu had to be laid. It was proposed that this be extended to Srinagar but the preliminary survey of the Pir Panjal quickly squashed the thought, especially for a poor country with higher priorities.

1983: Prime Minister Indira Gandhi kicks off the line from Jammu to Udhampur. An optimistic schedule of five years and a budget of 50 Crores was set. As detailed below what happened to this line amply illustrates the wisdom of the earlier planners who had abandoned their plans when faced with reality. [cite web|url=http://www.indianexpress.com/res/web/pIe/ie/daily/19981010/28350834.html|work=Online edition of the Indian Express, dated 1998-10-10|title=Destination nowhere|author=Arun Sharma|accessdate=2008-08-14]

1994: Railway minister Jaffer Sharief declares the need for a railway line to Baramulla and the Kashmir valley. Upon further review it was revealed that this would be a 'hanging' Railway running from Qazigund to Srinagar and on to Baramulla. The line from Katra to Qazigund through the mountains still looks unattainable.

July 2002: The Vajpayee Government declares the line a National Project. This means that it will be constructed and completed irrespective of cost. The central government will fund the entire project. This is important as the Railways do not have the now estimated cost of 6,000 Crores for the entire project. By the Railways' allocation it would have taken 60 years to complete the project. A challenging deadline of August 15, 2007, Independence Day, was also set.

April 13, 2005: The Jammu-Udhampur line, all of convert|55|km|mi, is inaugurated, 21 years and Rs.515 crore (US$130 million) after its commencement. [cite web|url=http://pib.nic.in/release/release.asp?relid=9418|work=Press Release, Press Information Bureau, Government of India, dated 2005-04-13.|title=A landmark development: Jammu-Udhampur rail line|author=Harsh Bhal|accessdate=2008-08-13] [cite web|url=http://www.tribuneindia.com/2005/20050414/main2.htm|work=Online Edition of The Tribune, dated 2005-04-14|title=Manmohan flags off first Udhampur-Jammu train|author=S.P. Sharma & Tripti Nath|accessdate=2008-08-13] The line has 20 major tunnels and 158 bridges. Its longest tunnel is convert|2.5|km|mi and it highest bridge is convert|77|m|ft - the highest railway bridge in India. This is in the relatively easy Shivalik Hills.

Infrastructure

The alignment for the Kashmir Railway presents one of the greatest railway engineering challenges ever faced, with the only contest coming from the recently completed China-Tibet rail route which crosses permanently frozen ground and climbs to more than 5,000m above sea level.

Whilst the temperatures of the Kashmir Railway area are not as severe as Tibet, it does still experience extreme winters with heavy snowfalls. However, making the route even more complex is the requirement to pass through the Himalayan foothills and the mighty Pir Panjal with most peaks exceeding convert|15000|ft|m in height.

The route includes many bridges, viaducts and tunnels – the railway is expected to cross a total of 580 bridges and pass through over convert|100|km|mi of tunnels, the longest of which is convert|11|km|mi in length. The greatest engineering challenges involve the crossing of the Chenab river which involves building a convert|1315|m|ft long bridge convert|359|m|ft above the river bed, and the crossing of the Anji Khad, which involves building a convert|657|m|ft long bridge convert|186|m|ft above the river bed. [cite web|url=http://www.konkanrailway.com/website/tender/annexure1.pdf|work=Official webpage of the Konkan Railway Corporation Limited|title=Salient Design Features of the Chenab and Anji Khad bridges|accessdate=2008-08-14]

The Chenab bridge will be the highest railway structure of its kind in the world, 35 m higher than the tip of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Both bridges are to be simple span bridges. Cor-Ten Steel is planned to be used to provide an environment friendly appearance and eliminate the need to paint the bridge. The design and structure is very similar to the New River Gorge Bridge.

The project is being project managed by the Konkan Railway Construction between Salal and Laole stations. Completion is scheduled for 2012, four years after the first isolated section of the route is due to open for local passenger services, and it requires the use of 26,000t of steel.

All tunnels including the New Banihal Tunnel will be constructed using the New Austrian Tunneling method. Numerous challenges have been encountered while tunneling through the geologically young and unstable Shivalik mountains. In particular water ingress problems have been seen in the Udhampur to Katra section. This has required some drastic soltions using steel arches and several feet of shotcrete.

Even though the line is being built through a mountainous region, a ruling gradient of 1% has been set to provide a safe, smooth and reliable journey. More importantly Bankers will not be required making the journey quicker and smoother. It will be built to the Indian standard broadgauge of convert|1676|mm|ft gauge, laid on concrete sleepers with continuous welded rail and with a minimum curve radius of 676 m. Maximum line speed will be convert|100|km/h|mph. Provision for future doubling will be made on the major bridges. Additionally provisions for future electrification will be made, though the line will be operated with diesel locomotives initially. Kashmir is an electricity scarce region at present. There will be 30 stations on the full route, served by 10–12 trains per day initially.

The Kashmir line will connect with the Indian Railways railhead at Jammu, where a 60 km access route has been built to Udhampur. The main sections of the route are between Udhampur and Qazigund – 75% in tunnels and the responsibility of Konkan Railway Corporation – with the Qazigund-Baramulla section being constructed by IRCON.

Rolling stock

Rolling stock for the new route will be from the existing national fleet. Both passenger and freight trains will use the new railway into and out of Kashmir. Passenger services will be provided by the new Aerodynamic HP diesel multiple units. The service will at first be provided on a 45 km section of the Qazigund-Baramulla section, running initially between Rajwansher and Anwantipora. The entire Qazigund-Baramulla section is due to open by the end of 2008.

Freight services conveying grain and petroleum products will run in between the 10–12 passengers services that are planned to operate daily.

Maintenance of all rolling stock and locomotives will be at the newly built Budgam shed just south of Srinagar.

ignaling and communications

Three-aspect colour light signaling is being installed on the route to maintain train safety. GSM-R equipment may be installed in the future to improve the quality of the system.

There has also been mention of the Konkan Railways ACD (Anti-Collision Device) being supplied for equipment on the line.

ecurity

The regions the line passes through continue to face terrorist challenges. The presence of Pakistan close by aggravates these challenges. Plans for CCD cameras at all major Bridges, Tunnels and Railway Stations have been made. Additionally a special security detail to protect this infrastructure has been contemplated.

Project operations

*Indian Railways is in charge of the Udhampur-Katra Section (25 km).
*Konkan Railway Corporation Limited is in charge of the Katra-Laole Section (90 km). This is arguably the toughest portion of the railway with over 80% of the line either inside a tunnel or on a bridge.
*IRCON, a Public Sector railway construction company is in charge of the Laole-Barramulla Section (170 km). Another tough, but less brutal section.
*HCC has won the tender to construct both the North and South Section of the 11 km Banihal tunnel for approx $120 million. Work is underway.
*AFCONS with Ultra Engineering (South Korea) will design and construct the Chenab Bridge for $130 million. [cite web|url=http://www.afconsindia.com/bridges.htm|work=Official webpage of AFCONS|title=Bridges, Flyovers and Viaducts|accessdate=2008-09-23]
*Gammon India with Archirodon Construction (South Africa) will build the Anji Khad Bridge for $100 million.

Current status (2006 and beyond)

November 2006 - Test bogies successfully transferred to the Kashmir Valley through the Banihal Tunnel by ABC Transport Inc.

January 2007 - The Udhampur-Katra section has been delayed as engineers grapple with the first tunnel after Udhampur. The tunnel bed has experienced serious uplift and the dimensions of the tunnel have been squeezed due to an undetected fault. New date is December 2007.

February 2007 - The Rajwansher-Kakapura line inside the valley is delayed due to snow & rock avalaches which have prevented the transfer of bogies. New date is May 2007. The Baramulla to Qazigund section is still on for December 2007.

March 2007 - The first two kilometers of the new Banihal tunnel are complete, one kilometer from each end. Only 9 more kilometers to go. Water seepage has become a serious issue.

May 2007 - DEMU successfully transferred to valley. Trial runs completed. Inauguration of Anantnag to Rajwansher line likely soon.

August 15, 2007 - First Valley section from Rajwansher to Kakapura is planned for inauguration on Independence Day. Rest of the section by year end. No word on Katra Section.

August 17, 2007 - Inauguration delayed to end of year as Station facilities are not complete.

August 22, 2007 - First trial run within the valley successfully completed. Signaling systems still not complete. Second train set with 10 coaches is still sitting in Jammu. Two sets will be needed for service and inauguration is waiting for their transport into the valley.

September 4, 2007 - As per note to Parliament, Revised cost is estimated as Rs 11,300 Crore (Approx $2.5 Billion) versus original estimate of Rs 3000 Crore. Rs 1700 crore sanctioned for 2007, Rs 3900 has been spent to date. Revised timetable Baramulla-Qazigund May 2008, Udhampur Katra December 2008 (due to faults in tunnels), Katra-Qazigund 2011-2012. Note that the original date of completion was August 15, 2007.

September 30, 2007 - The first accident occurs. Two Bogies of a Three bogie trial consist derail and overturn at Ompura Station. Sabotage is NOT suspected. As there still no passengers, no injuries were reported. Damage to train is minor.

October 2, 2007 - A decision has been made by CM Ghulam Azad to open then line once the 70 km from Anantnag to Rajwansher is complete in June 2008.

February 2008 - Construction on the Katra-Laole section (90 km, most geologically difficult) slows to a crawl as mounting labour disputes over pay and local involvement take their toll. [cite web|url=http://www.tribuneindia.com/2008/20080219/j&k.htm#6|work=Online edition of The Tribune, dated 2008-02-19|title=Association demands revocation of ad|accessdate=2008-08-14] Present rate of tunneling progress is roughly 70 meters per month versus a normal 200 meters a month (60% of this section is in tunnels). At this rate this section will require 16 years for completion.

April 8, 2008 - Inaugration of Qazigund-Baramulla section within the valley is set for August 15th 2008. [cite web|url=http://www.expressindia.com/news/kashmir/full_story.php?content_id=93114&type=ei|work=Online edition of The Indian Express, dated 2008-04-08|title=Qazigund-Baramulla rail link to be ready by August|accessdate=2008-08-14] Completion of link to Katra slipped by 1 year to 2013. More delays likely.

August 7, 2008 - The Ministry of Railways asks the Konkan Railway Corporation Limited (KRCL) — the agency executing works on almost half of the Katra-Qazigund section — not to commence any new work on the 70-odd-km mountainous stretch entrusted to it. It is considering major changes in the alignment. This could push the project deadline to 2025 and lead to severe cost escalations and the abandonment of works already executed. [cite web|url=http://www.indianexpress.com/story/345657.html|work=Online edition of The Indian Express, dated 2008-08-07|title=No full stops in this train journey|author=Raghvendra Rao|accessdate=2008-08-10] Works worth Rs 750 crore have now already been executed and Rs 1,000 crore worth of contracts were already awarded on the Katra-Qazigund section, whose completion will finally allow a direct train to the Valley.

August 15, 2008 - Inauguration of Qazigund-Baramulla section is put off indefinitely due to ongoing disturbances in the Kashmir Valley.

September 4, 2008 - The Railway Board orders cancellation of the project on the existing alignment between Katra and Dharam, due to alleged geological instabilities. It instructs KRCL to stop all work on the section, including the Chenab Bridge, and terminate all contracts issued for work on the section. The Board proposes to undertake a fresh survey for construction of the line on a different alignment. [cite web|url=http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India/India_drops_plans_for_worlds_highest_bridge/articleshow/3473521.cms|work=Online edition of The Times of India, dated 2008-09-12|title=India drops plans for world's highest bridge|author=Manoj Mitta|accessdate=2008-09-23]

September 18, 2008 - Fearing heavy claims from contractors, the Railway Board reconsiders its earlier decision to scrap the project and constitutes a high-level committee to examine the feasibility of the project. [cite web|url=http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India/With_Chenab_project_scrapped_Rs_450_cr_may_go_waste_/articleshow/3496237.cms|work=Online edition of The Times of India, dated 2008-09-18|title=With Chenab project scrapped, Rs 450 cr may go waste|author=Manoj Mitta|accessdate=2008-09-18]

October 2, 2008 - The inauguration of the Srinagar-Budgam section is scheduled for 11th October, 2008. [cite web|url=http://www.indianexpress.com/news/PM-to-flag-off-first-train-in-Kashmir/370833|work=Online edition of The Indian Express,dated 2008-10-08|title=PM to flag off first train in Kashmir|accessdate=2008-10-08]

External links

* [http://www.iricen.gov.in/projects/622/DESIGN.pdf Design features of Kashmir Railway]

References


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