Train connectivity needs prioritisation

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Train connectivity has ushered a new era of progress and prosperity in Jammu and Kashmir. Railway Ministry is making all out efforts to increase train connectivity in the state, which would definitely give boost to tourism, economy and mobility of security forces in a border state. Above all better connectivity is likely to bring people of Jammu and Kashmir closer to the people in the rest of the country. It is because of this reason probably that the BJP-led NDA government had made up its mind not to only improve train connectivity but also road connectivity, giving easy accessibility in whole year particularly in Kashmir Valley and Ladakh region.

With the completion of train network from Katra to Banihal, the distance would be covered within few hours from Jammu to Srinagar and accordingly on completion of ongoing four lane road network, the distance from Jammu to Srinagar would be covered within 4-6 hours, which would definitely help to remove grievances of the people of Kashmir valley. Jammu-Poonch train link and Batote-Doda is also in the pipe line of Railway Ministry.

The proposal of Jammu-Poonch was approved by UPA government but was shelved due to unknown reason but NDA government after coming into power has given priority to work on this project. Though railway connectivity from Jammu to Katra is beneficial for whole country and state but it has also adversely affected economy of Jammu city as large number of businessmen, traders, hoteliers and transporters are finding hard to sustain their livelihood due to bypassing of large number of pilgrimage of Mata Vaishno Devi, who earlier used to pass from Jammu.

To tide over this problem, only solution is to promote tourism infrastructures at Jammu city. The moment the Katra-Banihal is linked with train, both Valley and Ladakh would witness a turning point in their development. Topographically; Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh are different regions and better road and train connectivity would definitely bring change in their life style.

It is expected that the train connectivity would bring people of Kashmir valley closer to the people in the rest of the country. The train running Kashmir is yet to be connected with the rest of the country. Its run between Banihal-Baramulla, covering a distance of 135 kilometers has been both safe and applauded by the people by and large. Pertinently, trains in Kashmir are fast becoming a favourite mode of commuting in the Valley and there has been a demand for increase their frequency as almost 30,000 people travel by trains everyday on the Banihal-Baramullah track.

Recently in shocking and disturbing news, it was revealed that when Railway connectivity from Jammu to Banihal was proposed at the initial stage, then its cost was worked out to Rs. 1500 crores but due to delay on the part of bureaucracy and executing agencies, cost has escalated to Rs. 20,000 crore. If this trend continues, then reaching of train from Jammu to Srinagar would remain a distant dream. Railway Ministry has to take strong action to stop escalation of project to see that the dream of train connectivity of Valley with rest of the country in near future is realised.

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