The much awaited Vaishno Devi shrine Katra -Kalka train would soon be a reality as the Indian Railways has finally got the mandatory safety clearance from the Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) to commission the train service to Katra, the base camp of Mata Vaishno Devi shrine.
The Katra-Kalka train was announced in the last railway budget but was yet to begin since the security clearance of the 25-km long Udhampur-Katra rail section in Jammu and Kashmir was pending for past several months.
“After missing several deadlines, the track has finally got the security clearance now,” said Neeraj Sharma, chief public relation officer, Northern Railways.
He added that the railway department would soon begin the official process to start new trains, including Katra-Kalka train, as well as to extend existing trains till Katra.
According to information, the Udhampur-Katra rail section is slated to be inaugurated soon by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, along with railway minister Sadananda Gowda.
Media reports suggested that although a date for opening of the Katra line was yet to be finalised, it would most probably be before the rail budget is slated next month as all preparations for the inaugural run are almost complete.
Udhampur- Katra line is constructed at an estimated cost of Rs 1,050 crore. The 53km-long Jammu-Udhampur rail line is already operational and once the Udhampur-Katra line is made operational, trains will be able to come up to Katra directly.
Speaking to Hindustan Times, Chandigarh member of Parliament (MP), Kirron Kher expressed happiness over the development and said she would soon expedite the matter with the railway ministry to start the Katra-Kalka train at the earliest after the inauguration of the Udhampur- Katra line.
“Thousands of devotees from this region visit the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine every year. This train will definitely make their journey easy,” she said.
As per information, the line to Katra has seven tunnels and over 30 small and big bridges. Katra station has been completed with modern facilities, including tourist guide counter, VIP lounge, escalators and lifts.
The railways is also considering extending Jammu Mail and Sampark Kranti trains up to Katra, besides introducing new trains, including Katra-Kalka Express, Delhi Sarai Rohilla-Udhampur Express and Ahmadabad-Udhampur Express.