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HindustanTimes Tue,21 Oct 2014

Rail budget: Gowda's J-K announcements focus pilgrims, ‘ignore locals’

Peerzada Ashiq, Hindustan Times  Srinagar, July 08, 2014
First Published: 16:52 IST(8/7/2014) | Last Updated: 18:52 IST(8/7/2014)

The announcements made by union railway minister Sadananda Gowda on Tuesday for Jammu and Kashmir was pilgrimage focused but ignored services for locals.

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The one ticket service will now enable people, mainly pilgrims, to reach Srinagar on a single ticket as special bus service will connect Udhampur-Banihal track by bus service and Banihal-Kashmir via railway.

“We have decided to bridge the gap of Udhampur and Banihal by bus service through a single ticket system,” said Gowda while presenting the budget.

The move will help pilgrims to reach both to the shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi and Amarnath without hassle.

There was a cumbersome halt at Udhampur for pilgrims where they had to look for fresh conveyance to reach Srinagar.

The ambitious project of completing the 326-km long Katra-Banihal rail link is still under process in the state.

Besides an additional train for 119-km Banihal-Baramulla railway track, the frequency of train trips from Banihal to Budgam, adjacent to Srinagar, has been increased from four to eight.

This too will benefit pilgrims heading for the Amarnath yatra in south Kashmir’s Pahalgam area, 90 km away from Srinagar.

“Both one-ticket system and increased frequency of trains will help pilgrims to reach Pahalgam (in south Kashmir) without major hassles. Otherwise, a pilgrim had to halt in Jammu and look for additional bus services to reach Banihal,” said Ravi Kumar (38), who is on a sightseeing trip in Srinagar after paying obeisance at the Amarnath cave shrine recently.

However, locals are unhappy that Budgam-Baramulla rail services have not been augmented. The train frequency for this line remains only four and is one of the busiest tracks connecting north Kashmir with Srinagar.

“Increase in frequency of train service between Banihal and Budgam would bring much needed relief to the commuters. However, the frequency needs to be increased on Budgam-Baramula line to ease pressure in north Kashmir as well,” said opposition Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti, also a member parliament from south Kashmir’s Anantnag.

She said, “It was encouraging that Railway Ministry has responded to this long felt need, which was brought to the notice of railway minister, Gowda, last month, by me and my colleagues, in the Lok Sabha.”

The PDP has demanded more rail links in the state.

“The party has taken up other issues related to the expansion of railways in Jammu & Kashmir, in the areas like Poonch-Rajouri, Kupwara and Chenab Valley, as well, as the need for completing the Katra-Banihal construction of railway line on priority,” she said.

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