Drawing a page from his experience in the Konkan Railways, Metro Man E Sreedharan said he had recommended the formation of a special purpose vehicle to expedite the Katra-Banihal rail corridor, a crucial link to the Kashmir Valley.
However, with the Railway Board summarily dismissing the suggestions, Sreedharan warns yet again that if work goes on at the same pace “it will take another 20 years to complete the project”.
In response to a public interest litigation filed by advocate and politician Prashant Bhushan’s Centre for Public Interest Litigation, the Delhi High Court had constituted a committee in 2015 with Sreedharan as its head to look into the 111-km rail corridor from Katra to Banihal. The line connecting Katra, a Hindu pilgrimage town near Jammu, with Banihal in the Kashmir Valley, is plagued by inordinate delays and cost overruns since work commenced in 2002 with the Railways having spent Rs 10,000 crore already.
“Work has been going on for 15 years and one difficult stretch on the corridor is yet to be completed. As the head of the High Court ordered committee, “I have suggested that the project be taken away from the Railways and given to a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), which should be formed if the Railways wants the project to be expedited on priority,” Sreedharan said. “A similar arrangement was done for the Konkan Railways. Only if the SPV is formed will the project be completed in the next 8 to 10 years. Otherwise with the present style of working, it will take another 20 years”
Sreedharan, 85, who had spearheaded the challenging Konkan Railways project, delivering 760 km of rail corridors with 59 stations, 92 tunnels and 2328 bridges, added, “We had finished the project in seven years. The Katra section is extremely important and will facilitate transportation of troops and bring down prices of essential commodities. However, Railway Board has turned down my suggestion.”
The Katra-Banihal stretch is considered to be the most difficult engineering challenge in the country. With 27 bridges including the tallest railway bridge in the world and 37 tunnels, one of the longest in Asia, it throws up challenges coupled with a hostile terrain.
While two-thirds of the larger 326-km corridor ranging from Jammu-Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla is ready, only the Katra-Banihal calls for attention. Railway Ministry has formed a special monitoring team to oversee its execution and is targeting for an opening by 2021.
Source Link – India Today