Vaishno Devi pilgrims will have to wait up to September to travel by train to Katra as the inauguration of much-awaited Udhampur-Katra rail line has been further delayed by the railways, missing its target of mid-June this year.
According to a report from railway sources, ahead of the launch of the prestigious Udhampur-Katra rail project, a high-level team of senior officers of railways headed by railways board chairman Vinay Mittal had a detailed survey of Udhampur-Katra track, including the Tunnel No 1. The scheduled inauguration on June 25 by the Prime minister was postponed after the technical team confronted certain technical snags during the final inspection of the tracks.
Sources added that the work was in progress of laying track and barring the laying of weightless track on the 3.1-km long T1 tunnel, all other works in the Katra route have almost been completed. Hopefully, the train will reach Katra in August-September this year.
The rail link between Udhampur and Katra was scheduled to be completed by 2005. The survey on the 25-km Udhampur-Katra rail project was conducted in 1998 but the actual groundwork was started 1999 with the promise that Katra would be connected through rail with the rest of the country by the end of 2005. The route consists of seven tunnels, including a 185-foot-high tunnel, and 30 small and big bridges. A total of seven tunnels span over 10 km of the 25 km stretch.
Keeping this in mind, the vast area of Katra station has been provided with pilgrim guide tourist assistance, cloak room, waiting hall, VIP lounge, escalators and lifts, besides parking space on the either side of the station.
Sources said the railway department was mulling to extend the Jammu mail and Samparak Kranti, both Jammu-New Delhi trains, to Katra from Udhampur; Delhi-Pathankot Express from Pathankot (Punjab) to Katra and introduce new trains including Katra-Kalka (Chandigarh) Express (bi-weekly), Delhi Sarai Rohilla-Udhampur Express, (fully air-conditioned) and Ahmedabad-Udhampur Express initially.
Besides, a set of local trains from Jammu to Katra and Pathankot to Katra could also be introduced to clear the rush of Mata Vaishno Devi pilgrims from Jammu and Pathankot to Katra.