Centre nod to Jammu-Poonch rail line after several years

Rs 2370 cr provision to be kept in budget
Major towns to get rail connectivity
Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Dec 23: Ahead of Parliament elections and within less than a month to the approval of Baramulla-Kupwara railway line, Railways Minister Piyush Goyal has agreed to construction of Jammu-Rajouri-Poonch rail line and will be keeping budgetary provision for Rs 2370 crore in the upcoming railway budget to give national project the final shape, which has been pending since the UPA regime.
Top official sources told the Excelsior that Jammu-Rajouri-Poonch railway line was important from strategic point of view also, like Baramulla-Kupwara, as it will connect the twin border districts of Rajouri and Poonch which share Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan, with train.
“The project has a total cost of Rs 2370 crore and the Railways Minister was likely to keep budgetary provision for it in the next Railway budget, which will be treated as official approval of the project,” sources said, adding the Railways Minister has already given formal nod to the project after survey conducted on it had found the project feasible as also important from defence point of view.
They pointed out that Baramulla-Kupwara project, which was approved only last month, was also very significant from defence point of view as it will connect both the districts having LoC with Pakistan.
As per the proposal of the Railways Ministry, the Jammu-Poonch railway line will pass through Akhnoor, Kaleeth, Dori Dager, Chowki Chowra-Bhambla, Sunderbani, Rajouri and Poonch.
The project, which will have a total rail length of 234.12 kilometers, will be constructed in about three years, sources said. They added that a detailed announcement on the project details was likely to be made by the Railways Minister in the upcoming railway budget.
The Jammu-Rajouri-Poonch railway line has been part of BJP’s election promises during 2014 Lok Sabha elections and even the BJP’s star campaigners had promised construction of the rail line.
“A survey on Jammu-Rajouri-Poonch railway line has already been completed and its routes have been finalized. The train will pass through all major towns of Jammu, Rajouri and Poonch districts,” sources said, adding the survey has described the project as feasible as it will benefit large numbers of populations especially those living in Rajouri and Poonch districts.
The rail project was initially conceived in 2012 during the tenure of UPA-II by then Railways Minister Mukul Roy, who had declared it as “national project”. However, no major focus was paid on the project thereafter except for holding surveys. Former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti during her tenure had also projected the extension of train to Kupwara in Kashmir and Poonch in Jammu.
According to sources, there was strong resentment among the people against the BJP leadership especially after the Railways Minister on November 30, 2018, cleared the extension of railway line from Baramulla to Kupwara in Kashmir valley and there was no mention of Jammu-Rajouri-Poonch rail line.
This prompted top BJP leadership from Jammu to knock the doors of Piyush Goyal to get the project formally approved and keep budgetary provision for it and ensure its formal foundation laying before imposition of Model Code of Conduct for Lok Sabha elections.
Apart from the railway line, the Central Government has already approved Rs 5100 crore worth Jammu-Akhnoor-Nowshera-Rajouri-Poonch national Highway. Work on Jammu-Akhnoor section of the National Highway has already begun and it will be taken up on Akhnoor-Rajouri-Poonch shortly.
Strategic projects, both in Railways as well as Road and Transport Ministries are being cleared on priority, sources said, adding that Jammu-Rajouri-Poonch and Baramulla-Kupwara lines were also strategically very significant apart from helping the local population in conveyance.