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Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link Set to Open on February 20th

On February 20, Indian Railways will begin train service on the Banihal-Khari-Sumber-Sangaldan section, a 48.1-kilometer-long stretch of the country’s most ambitious Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link project.

“We will get a step closer to realising our dream of connecting Srinagar and Kanyakumari,” a railway source told PTI.

“The Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link (USBRL) project is one of the most ambitious Himalayan railway projects post Independence,” he went on to say.

According to railway authorities, Prime Minister Narendra Modi would likely launch the stretch by virtually flagging off a train from Sangaldan.

However, formal confirmation in this respect is pending.

A senior railway official spoke on the project, saying, “Spanning the tough terrain of the Pir Panjal hills, the USBRL wants to create an  all-weather, comfortable and economically-feasible transportation network, connecting remote Himalayan areas with the rest of the country.”

The USBRL project seeks to integrate the Kashmir Valley with the Jammu region and the national rail network, spanning a total length of 272 kilometres out of which 161 kilometres have already been commissioned.

According to the railways, the Banihal-Khari-Sumber-Sangaldan section, which was constructed at a cost of ₹15,863 crore, is ready for operation and the existing train services from Baramulla to Banihal will now be extended up to Sangaldan, a town near the district headquarters of Ramban.

“It features 16 bridges — 11 major ones, four minor ones and one road overbridge. More than 90 per cent of this section is in tunnels, with a total of 11 tunnels covering 43.37 kilometres, including the country’s longest transportation tunnel, T-50, stretching 12.77 kilometres in the Khari-Sumber section,” a senior official associated with the project said.

“For safety and rescue, there are three escape tunnels with a combined length of 30.1 kilometres. Additionally, the section includes 30 curves spanning 23.72 kilometres. To further enhance passenger safety and comfort, several advanced features have been incorporated, such as ballastless tracks and canted turnouts (a first for the Indian Railways),” he added.

Besides, CCTV monitoring and state-of-the-art tunnel-safety technology, including ventilation and firefighting systems, are some of the other added safety features.

So far as electrification is concerned, the Baramulla-Srinagar-Banihal-Sangaldan section of the USBRL project, which spans 185.66 RKM (route kilometres) and serves 19 railway stations, is complete, the sources said.

“Constructed for ₹470.23 crore, with electrification, it is possible to operate the state-of-the-art Vande Bharat trains in the section. Other noteworthy features include 25-KV OHE inside the longest operational tunnel (tunnel T-80 in the Banihal-Quazigund section), specialised equipment for high-altitude operations and 132/33-KV traction substations at altitudes exceeding 1,600 MSL,” one of the sources said.

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