Y R Gupta
The Railway line in Jammu region was an extension of NWR from Suchetgarh of the Sialkot District to the Jammu city. The work on this Railway line commenced in October 1888 and the line was declared open for traffic on 13th March, 1890. It was about 17 miles in length and was purchased by the State Government from the Dharamarth Department for a sum of Rs. 11, 78,078. This link, however, was disrupted in 1947 as a result of division of the Country.
Earlier in 1902, the Maharaja Sir PRATAP SINGH got the survey done via three different routes i.e. Abbottabad to Srinagar, Jammu to Srinagar via two different routes through Banihal for a Narrow Gauge Railway line and another survey for Electric Railway from Jammu to Srinagar via Banihal but the construction could not be started not only due to financial constraints but also due to formal sanction of the project from Government Of India. The financial aspect could have been very much met with the exploration of Coal Fields in Ladda area, a distance of 30 miles from Tikri where at least 2,500,000 tons coal was available. As to why these Coal Fields were not explored even after the Railway Projects were abandoned is not known.
After 1947, the first step to link Jammu with the rest of the Country was taken by providing strategic Rail connection with the extension of Jalandhar – Mukerian branch line to Pathankot. Work on the 44kms line was started in November 1949 and formally opened to Rail traffic on 7th April, 1952. Further Rail head was advanced from Pathankot to Madhopur and then up to Kathua in 1966 which is 6 kms inside the State. It was just a symbolic stretch. Yet the State could not fully enjoy the Rail system badly needed for the overall economic development of the State.
The real and serious efforts were made to bring Railway line deep into the State in 1969 when a new project to extend line beyond Kathua up to Jammu was prepared. This project was a challenging job and was completed within a short span of 3 years and the section Kathua- – Jammu was opened for goods traffic on 2nd October, 1972 and subsequently passenger traffic when inauguration ceremony was made by T.A Pai Minister of Railways. Besides the minster of railways, there were other central ministers namely Dr Karan Singh minister of Civil Aviation and Tourism, Om Mehta Minister of State for Transport and Parliamentary affairs, Mohd. Shafi Qureshi Dy Minister Railways. There was also the ministers from J&K state Tirlochan Dutt and Randhir Singh.The chairman Railway board, Member Staff and financial Commissioner railways were also present beside local M.Ps and MLAs.The main function at Jammu was presided over by Mir Qasim Chief minister of J&K. The messages of greeting sent for the occasion by the President of India, The prime Minister of India Minister of planning and Development and Governor of J&K were also read out.
First passenger carrying train Srinagar Express (Now Jehlum Express) was received ceremoniously at Jammu. This project will be remembered forever as it is one of the few such projects in the world history when work did not stop even during the Indo-Pak war of 1971.
A galaxy of VIPs from the Centre and the State were present to witness this historic event when Jammu was brought on the Railway map once again after a gap of 25 years. The station became pilgrim place for the rural as well as for the urban folks. It was Srinagar express (now Jhelum express) which departed from New Delhi on 1stDecember, 1972 and arrived Jammu Tawi on 2nd December, 1972. Om Mehta, Minister of State for Transport and Parliamentary Affairs and Mohd. Shaffi Qureshi Dy. Minister of Railways was the Chief Guest on this train which was decorated like a bride. A memorable function was also arranged by the State Government which was presided over by A. G Lone, the then Minister for Tourism in which awards were also presented to the Railway men for their outstanding performance. Besides this train, other 3 trains that is Kashmir Train (now Jammu Mail),Sealdah Express and one Passenger Train (Jammu-Pathankot) were introduced and started running from this day. The number of trains gradually increased, the first being Bombay- Jammu Tawi superfast on 24th December, 1976 which was flagged off by Mohd. ShaffiQureshi. At present the Jammu station is connected with every corner of India, and a number of trains are running from the station including prestigious Rajdhani Express.
With a view to provide an alternative and a reliable transportation system to Jammu & Kashmir , Govt. of India planned a 326 Kms long Railway Line beyond Jammu joining the Kashmir Valley with the Indian Railway Network. The project which passes through the Himalayas has been declared as a project of National Importance.
Further extension up to Udhampur was also taken in hand in 1981 but foundation stone for the same was formally laid by the then PM Indira Gandhi on 14th April, 1983. The construction however started in 1995 and Jammu-Udhampur Station was opened on 13th April, 2005. It was in 1997 that survey beyond Udhampur up to Srinagar was conducted. This section is full of long tunnels and high bridges including the one of the tallest in the world over river Chenab. The construction beyond Katra up to Banihal is in progress.
As regards Kashmir valley the trains are running between Banihal and Baramulla after crossing one of the longest tunnels in the World. It is a point to be mentioned that rail coaches were carried to the valley on specially designed vehicles. (1)- 11.10.2008 Anantnag to Mazhom (2) – 14.02.2009 Mazhom to Baramulla (3) – 28.10.2009 Quazigund to Anantnag (4) 26.06.2013 Quazigund to Banihal
The Date was 4th July 2014,when after missing several deadlines the final auspicious day arrived when Narendra Modi Prime Minister, a, poise, devotee of Vaishno Mata and above all the one dedicated to the service of Bharat Mata and her children inaugurated the Opening of Udhampur-Katra Line ,with flagging off of first passenger carrying train(DMU). Beside the Prime Minister there were other central ministers namely Sachchidanand Gaura the Minister of Railways, Dr. Jitender Singh ( son of the soil) Minister of State in the PMO and also Hon’ble Governor of J & K and other State dignitaries and also Top Railway Officials accompanied by S.Kaul Chief Administrative Officer of this project who was once associated in the early days of the construction of Jammu-Udhampur Section. Perhaps Vaishno Mata was waiting for the right man for the job who thus appears on the scene in the shape of Narendra Modi the Prime Minister.
The opening of the section will enable the thousands and thousands of Mata’s devotees to reach the base camp Katra direct from all over the country. Though only few trains are scheduled to run at present, maximum facilities to handle a large number of trains, besides amenities for the passengers have been provided at the station and as such within a short period the station is likely to be connected with all the corners of the country in a planned and phased manner.
The section Udhampur-Katra a distance of 25 Kilometers have a unique scenic beauty besides having as many as 38 bridges and 7 tunnels of sixteen kilometers length or to say that 64% of the section is tunneled ,a longest one being of a little more than 3 Kilometers in length.
The construction works beyond Katra up to Banihal is at present in full swing with the laying of foundation stone at the Chenab Bridge by the Railway Minister and the section is likely to be completed by the middle of 2019. The opening of this section will be A Red Letter Day in the history of Indian Railways when trains will start running from Kanya Kumai to Kashmir (up to Baramulla).
Y R Gupta