Katra: Travelling by train to Katra, the base camp to the Vaishno Devi shrine, is set to become a reality by June when railways expects to complete the work on this stretch of the ambitious Kashmir rail link project.
The opening of the 25-km Udhampur-Katra section could see a good number of trains running up to the town, saving passengers the bother of undertaking journey by road from Jammu to the shrine which sees an annual flow of about 10 million people.
"We hope to complete work on the section by May following which there would be inspection by commissioner of railway safety before it is commissioned," said CAO of Udhampur- Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link Project BD Garg.
The route passes through inhospitable terrain making it an extremely challenging engineering project.
Talking about one of the tunnels on the section, a portion of which gave in, leading to delays, he said the problem has been sorted out as "we abandon that portion and create a detour". Ballast-free track is being laid before winding up the work.
The 292-km-Udhampur-Katra-Quazikund-Baramulla rail link is vital for the Kashmir Valley as it aims at boosting the economic prosperity of the region by facilitating transportation. Plans are afoot to electrify the entire stretch later on.
At present, passenger trains ply between Jammu and Udhampur and between Qazigund and Baramulla.
The commissioning of the Udhampur-Katra section is expected to bring in more pilgrims to the Vaishno Devi shrine from across the country.
Keeping this in mind, the vast expanse 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. Talks are on with Vaishnodevi Shrine Board to have a counter at the station itself.
"While the facilities at the station are one of the best in the country, the three platforms itself can accommodate 26 coach trains," Garg said.
The first floor has been provided with plush accommodation facilities matching star hotels with cafeteria by IRCTC.
Garg noted the construction of the station has given a spurt to the local economy and hospitality sector as a number of hotels have sprung up in close vicinity along with other commercial establishments.