PM Narendra Modi opens Katra rail link, vows to walk Vajpayee`s path
Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off the Katra-Udhampur train service, calling it an "auspicious" moment for the country.
Zee Media Bureau
Connecting Jammu with Srinagar by rail is one of the most challenging Engineering Feat. Kudos to all those who are making it possible.
— digvijaya singh (@digvijaya_28) July 4, 2014
The PM visits the Kashmir Valley amid a shutdown called by separatists and warnings by Muslim groups not to create a separate enclave for Kashmiri Pandits.
Separatists have called a shutdown in the Kashmir Valley. Kashmiri separatist leaders, including Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Muhammad Yasin Malik and Shabir Ahmad Shah, have all called for a the shutdown.
Sharp shooters, barricades, luggage checks and more - the security forces are taking no chances in Srinagar and other parts of the Valley.
Also Read: Restrictions in Srinagar ahead of PM Narendra Modi`s visit
PM Modi will also chair a high-level security review meeting at the Badami Bagh headquarters of the Army`s 15th corps here. The meeting will also be attended by GOC-n-C Army`s Northern Command Lt Gen DS Hooda, Director General of Police K Rajendra Kumar and other agencies.
He is also to inaugurate a 240 MW hydro-power in the border town of Uri in Baramulla district.
The 87-km highway from Srinagar to Uri is being secured by over 2,000 security personnel though the same would not be used by the Prime Minister to reach Uri town.
"Modi will fly to Uri but his entourage and other officials will be using the highway to reach Uri," an official said here.
This will be Modi`s first visit to Jammu and Kashmir since he became the Prime Minister May 26 at the head of a government of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which bitterly opposes any special status for Kashmir.
After a prolonged wait, pilgrims will be able to directly reach Katra, the base camp of Mata Vaishno Devi shrine, by rail after PM Modi flags off the first train from the station nestled in Trikuta Hills in Jammu and Kashmir`s Reasi district today.
The train for Jammu will chug along the newly-constructed line from the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Katra Station after Modi along with Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda waves the green flag.
The train will traverse through seven tunnels and over 30 small and large bridges. There will be a small station - Chakrakhwal - between Udhampur and Katra.
The 25-km long Udhampur-Katra line, which is being commissioned today after prolonged delays, has been built at an estimated cost of Rs 1,132.75 crore.
Trains will be able to reach Katra directly as the 53-km Jammu-Udhampur rail line is already operational and now the Udhampur-Katra line, which is a part of the Kashmir rail link project, is being commissioned. This would enable pilgrims headed to the Vaishno Devi shrine to travel directly to the base camp at Katra.
Railways is considering extending Jammu Mail and Sampark Kranti Express up to Katra, besides introducing new trains, including Katra-Kalka Express, New Delhi-Katra AC express.
There is also a possibility of launching a new train between Varanasi and Katra, said the official, adding the purpose is to connect two holy places by train.
According to the official, there are demands from several zones for train services to Katra.
A set of local trains from Jammu to Katra and Pathankot to Katra is also likely to be introduced to cater to the rush of Vaishno Devi pilgrims. An estimated 10 million devotees visit the shrine every year.
Railway Protection Force (RPF) has been stationed at vulnerable locations all along the track in protected bunkers to maintain round-the-clock vigil.
Katra station is equipped with modern facilities, including tourist guide counter, cloak room, waiting hall, VIP lounge, escalators and lifts and parking spaces.
(With Agency inputs)