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Train to Katra by month end

NEW DELHI, Jan 2: After much delay, train services up to Katra, the base camp for pilgrims to the Vaishno Devi shrine, are likely to start from this month end.
The train connectivity to Katra is a part of the ambitious Kashmir rail link project and has been executed at an estimated cost of Rs 1050 crore.
While trains are already running up to Udhampur, Railways hopes to open the 25-km-long Udhampur-Katra section by the last week of January after obtaining the clearance from the Commission Railway Safety, sources said.
The train services would prove to be a boon for the pilgrims visiting the shrine who at present depend on road transport.
At times they also complain of being fleeced by taxis and other transport operators from Jammu.
Udhampur-Katra route was slated to be commissioned during October but it got delayed after a portion of a tunnel caved in. The agitation in the Valley during last year also delayed completion of the section as the workers involved in the project left the site.
Railways carried out a coach running trial in the last month last week. “The trial was a success and now we are waiting for getting the clearance from the CRS to begin passenger train operation to Katra,” a source said.
Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi are scheduled to flag off the first train from Katra and commission the section.
Sources, however, said the section is yet to be inspected by Commissioner of Railway Safety but the process would be expedited soon.
To begin with, two trains — Delhi-Katra Express and Kalka-Katra Express —  will run on the section. More trains would be added in the coming months, the sources said.
The 25-km stretch to Katra is an engineering marvel as the route has seven tunnels, 29 minor and nine major bridges with some of the bridges as high as 85 metres.
Katra station itself would boast of several facilities of an A-class station which includes a VIP lounge and a spacious parking lot. The four platforms could accommodate 26-coach trains. (PTI)

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