In the next few months, the completion of the Udhampur-Katra rail line will enable a passenger to travel to the Kashmir Valley on a single ticket purchased from anywhere in the country. They will, however, have to take a short bus ride along the way.
Indian Railways along with the Kashmir government have worked out a deal by which passengers can, on one ticket, board a train to Katra in Jammu, catch a bus to Banihal and then continue on by train to Baramulla beyond Srinagar.
“The line from Udhampur to Katra will be ready in a month and a half. After that one can buy a ticket from even Kanyakumari to Katra, take the bus to Banihal and then take the train again to Kashmir,” Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge told The Indian Express.
According to the deal between the J&K government and Railways, the buses from Katra to Banihal will have dedicated seat numbers earmarked for each passenger along with the provision for luggage transfers.
The 25-km long stretch between Udhampur and Katra is ready for commissioning and is waiting for the formal approval of the Commissioner of Railway Safety. The line will also benefit pilgrims traveling to Vaishno Devi as they will be able to take a train closer to the temple without having to break journey at Udhampur as is the case now.
UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had flagged off the first train from Banihal in June and had promised to link the Valley during the government’s tenure. The train line between Katra and Banihal, however, will take another two years to be completed. It has been accorded national project status.