Uncertainty looms over train services in Kashmir

The train services in the valley have been halted for more than two months due to security concerns and railways and security officials maintain that they are uncertain about when the services will start chugging again.

Trains connecting north Kashmir with south of the valley were stopped on July 31 after protesters burnt down the Sopore railway station and damaged the tracks at several places.

Chief Area Managar of Northern railways, Upendar Singh, said the security clearance is the main issue. "We have no idea that when it will restart as security clearance remains the main issue," Singh said.Tracks have been damaged at many places, including on bridges, and some stations have also been damaged, he said.

He said railways had suffered losses to the tune of Rs six crore due to the closure. Railway property worth lakhs of rupees was also damaged during the protests.
The 116 km rail link, which was constructed at the cost of Rs 2,270 crore, connects north Kashmir's Baramulla district with south Kashmir's Qazigund.

The Baramulla-Qazigund train passes through 15 railway stations, which include Qazigund, Sadura, Anantnag, Awantipora, Pampore, Kakapora, Budgam, Nowgam, Bijbehara, Mazgam, Panzgam, Sopore, Hamre Pattan and Baramulla.

Most of the stations fall in the areas which have witnessed violent protests in the last five months.SSP Railways Showkat Ahmad Malik said the issue is being discussed at the senior level. "We cannot have a time frame about when it will restart but we are working on it," he said.

Before the protests began in the Valley on June 11, the train connecting the Valley's two distant parts was teeming with passengers.Last year in June, the train service was stopped after people protesting over the death of two women at Shopian pelted stones at the train at Bagh-e-Mahtab on the outskirts of district Srinagar.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi had inaugurated the rail services in the Valley last year amid much fanfare.

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