The hype is not misplaced: the 70-km is the only mountain railway in India to be built on the broad gauge, the biggest and most difficult project undertaken since Independence.
It took 14 years to get here. The stretch to be inaugurated by the prime minister on Saturday — the Anantnag-Srinagar-Rajwainsher track — will be the first train link in the Kashmir Valley. The tracks are designed for trains to run at a maximum speed of 100kmph — negotiating 130 major and 600 minor bridges along the 15-station route. It cost around Rs 2,500 crore.
Security, however, is a concern as the train will run through the heart of insurgency. Fifty watchtowers are to be set up to guard the highest rail bridge over the Ghambir Nullah and numerous tunnels through which the track meanders.
With the project bringing in large-scale employment in many villages, the rail line is already transforming economy along the route. “The rail has brought prosperity for residents. Land prices have shot up and employment generated,” said Angrez Chander, a soldier posted in Lucknow who was travelling to his native village of Chenani near Udhampur.
The 345-km long Jammu-Udhampur-Katra-Qazigund-Baramullah stretch, however, is far from being fully operational.
There have been frequent setbacks. A portion of a tunnel collapsed last year on the Udhampur-Katra section. Last July 14, work was suspended on the Katra-Qazigund section after faulty alignments.