50 years journey of J&K Railways

Uchit Singhal
2nd october is always special for us Indians, and why not? After all the day marks the birth anniversary of two very important personalities who helped shape the history of modern day India. But 2nd October will also mark something special, especially for the UT of J&K. The day will mark the completion of successful 50 years since the commencement of first train operation from Jammu Tawi railway station. The station which was inaugurated on 2nd October 1972 has been a witness to multiple socio-economic and political events in the history of this state. Owing to the strategic location of J&K, connectivity of this region with the rest of nation is very important not only for nation security but also to bring the fruits of development to the hitherto untouched parts of the UT. The story of railways in J&K begins from a humble origin in 19th century and stretches up to the mighty Chenab Bridge – the worlds’ highest railway arch bridge, the majestic Anji Khad bridge – the first cable stayed railway bridge in India and T-49 tunnel which is the longest transportation tunnel of India.
The journey of railways in this region begins from around October 1888 when the work commenced on the Suchetgarh-Jammu City railway line which was a part of erstwhile NWR railway. This 17 mile stretch which opened for traffic in 1890 was later purchased by the State Government. The link connected the two different geographical regions until it got disturbed due to partition of the country in 1947. After Independence, a strategic rail connection of about 44kms was first to come in 1952 by stretching the Jalandhar-Mukerian line upto Pathankot to give connectivity to this region. But it was not until 1966 when Railways made its first entry into the state of J&K at Kathua. But this was just a beginning as Railways still had a long way to go before it could become a vehicle of socio-economic development for the region. The same was very well realized and earnest efforts were put in to the planning of stretching the railway line further into the State and in 1969 a new project to extend the line beyond Kathua upto Jammu was started. The project in itself was a very challenging task both in terms of the engineering work involved and the deadline decided for the same. But the project was completed well in time and the section Kathua-Jammu was opened for goods traffic on 2nd October 1972 and subsequently for passenger traffic after 2 months. The importance of this line to J&K could have been judged from the inauguration ceremony in which apart from the then CM of J&K Mir Qasim, the then Railway Minister T.A. Pai and Chairman Railway Board apart from multiple other important political personalities and bureaucrats were present. This project was one of its’ kind and has left its mark forever as the work did not stop even during the Indo-Pak war of 1971. A galaxy of VIPs was present on the occasion to witness this historical event which brought Jammu back on the Railway map after a gap of almost 25 years.
First train to reach Jammu was Srinagar Express (now Jhelum express) which reached Jammu on 2nd December 1972 and the train was given a ceremonial welcome. Besides this train, 3 other trains were also introduced out of which Kashmir train (now Jammu Mail) and Sealdah Express are still the most coveted and sought after trains. At present Jammu station is connected to almost every corner of our country via Railway network and prestigious trains like Rajdhani and Vande Bharat ply from here. Since the day train operations began from here, the importance and contribution of Jammu Railway station to the socio-economic development of the state and integrating it with the nation cannot be overemphasized. The role of Railways in bridging the cultural divide and bringing jobs and development to the region has been phenomenal. And realizing the same, a project USBRL which was meant to connect Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla was launched and is now on its verge of completion with only a patch of 111 km left to connect between Katra to Banihal. Once this gets completed, the region of Kashmir which has felt isolated for long will get integrated with the mainstream development process, thus giving a boost to not only tourism sector but also to the trade and industry in the State. The opening of this section will be a red letter day in the history of Indian Railways when the trains will be able to ply right from Kanyakumari to Kashmir.
On this important forthcoming occasion, when the train operations in Jammu will mark their golden jubilee, the celebrations coincide with another important project meant for facelifting and improving the passenger convenience as well as experience at Jammu Tawi Railway Station. Timing could not have been better of this project, better known as the Station Redevelopment Project. Not only the improvement of façade of the station building serving the City of Temples will be brought about under this much chased after project but the station yard layout along with the present Interlocking arrangements will also be remodeled. This will help increase the capacity of this station not only in terms of passenger holding capacity but also in terms of train services which can originate/pass from here. A second entry to the station has also been conceptualized under this project which has been long felt by the people of this region.
Last but not the least, the day will mark the end of a fortnight long Swachhta Pakhwada launched nationwide to inculcate a spirit of personal as well social hygiene and cleanliness. The basic premise is that it is not enough that we keep only our own houses clean, but we need to develop a culture of developing an overall sense of hygiene and sanitation in the society. This day let us all take a pledge to keep our Railway Stations clean as these are not just buildings but the seeds of development, the fruits of which our progeny will also enjoy.
(The author is an Indian Railway Traffic Service officer serving in the UT of J&K in capacity of Station Director, Jammu.)