New Delhi: Travel to Vaishno Devi shrine is expected to get much easier as several Mail, Express and local trains are expected to go up to Katra, the shrine`s base camp, from July.
Work on the 25 km-long Uddhampur-Katra rail link is almost complete and Railways will hand it over to Commissioner Railway Safety for approval to run trains up to Katra.
Chairman of Railway Board, Vinay Mittal and General Manager of Northern Railway, VK Gupta will conduct a full- fledged inspection of the hilly route before it becomes operational.
The high-level railway team will also visit the Banihal- Qazigund line, which is expected to be operational this month.
"Safety clearance from CRS is mandatory for making new line operational. Barring the laying of ballastless track on the 3.1 km long T1 tunnel, the most difficult tunnel in the route, all other works in the Katra route are nearly completed now," a senior Northern Railway official, involved in the Kashmir rail link project, said.
The trains, including New Delhi-Uddhampur Uttar Sampark Kranti, Jammu Mail, Chandigarh-Katra Express, Delhi Sarai Rohilla-Uddhampur Express, Ahmedabad-Uddhampur Express, Delhi-Pathankot Express, among others are likely to reach Katra once the line is operational.
Besides, many local trains between Uddhampur and Katra will be pressed into service depending upon the demand.
However, the official said, "No decision has been taken yet on the number of trains to Katra. But once the line is operational, any train coming to Uddhampur can be extended to Katra."
Katra station is ready with three platforms and two more platforms will come up later.
With the commissioning of the new route, pilgrims will be able to reach the base camp of Vaishno Devi shrine at Katra without having to break their journey at Jammu.
The Udhampur-Katra rail route, coming up at an estimated cost of Rs 960 crore, passes through inhospitable terrain, making it an extremely challenging engineering project.
The route consists of seven tunnels and 30 small and big bridges, including a 185-feet high tunnel. A total of seven tunnels span over 10 km of the 25-km stretch.
An estimated 10 million devotees pay obeisance at the Vaishno Devi shrine every year.