Train to Vaishno Devi from next year

While the Katra station is almost ready, work on the Udhampur-Katra line is underway and expected to be commissioned by December 2012, a senior Northern Railway official, involved with the project, said.

The 53-km long Jammu-Udhampur rail line is already operational. Once the 25-km-long Udhampur-Katra line, part of the Kashmir rail link project, is operational then trains can come directly to Katra from anywhere, he said.

Katra town in Reasi is the base camp for pilgrims to Vaishno Devi shrine where an estimated 10 million devotees pay obeisance every year.

The Udhampur-Katra rail route, estimated to cost Rs 960 crore, passes through inhospitable terrain making it an extremely challenging engineering project.

The official said the 25-km-long route consists of seven tunnels and about 30 small and big bridges including a bridge taller than the Qutub Minar. "The total length of seven tunnels is 12 km on the Udhampur-Katra rail route. While construction of five tunnels is completed, work is going on in two tunnels - T1 and T3." The project got delayed because of a problem in T1 and T3 tunnels. "A portion of 3-km-long T1 tunnel collapsed due to seepage and it was a setback to the project," the official said.

The construction of T3 tunnel also faced problem due to the constant flow of the trapped water in the construction area.

"The problem has been rectified now and the tunnelling work is nearing completion," he said, adding that "the New Austrian Tunnelling Method is being used for all tunnels in the rail route."

It cost about Rs 70 crore to construct one km of tunnel.As far as bridges are concerned, work on these bridges are also in the final stage. The 85-metre-high bridge at Jhajjar is the tallest bridge among the total 30 bridges in the Udhampur-Katra rail route.

The bridge over Jhajjar Khud has the highest pier on Indian Railways and is taller than the Qutab Minar.

Since the area is a quake-prone and high wind velocity zone, all safety aspects are being taken into account before designing these bridges, the official said.

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