Hill railways: A look at the status of the various projects

Shantanu Nandan Sharma, ET Bureau Feb 12, 2012, 12.39AM IST

For Indians, hill railways had a heavy dose of romance associated with it. Countless films have featured the Darjeeling toy train or the ones chugging to Shimla or Ooty, with various filmy characters jumping in and out, yodelling away.

The Indian Railways did not do anything to change this perception. Till recently. And the push to think of the hill railways in strategic and commercial terms has come from, who else, but the Chinese.

The Indian Railways were jolted out of inaction only after China opened 1,140-km Qinghai-Tibet line in 2006. With the Chinese rail tracks inching closer to the Indian border, alarm bells have started to ring in Delhi's power corridors. The Indian political establishment realised that its decades-long strategy of no-rail-in-border was turning counter-productive.

So the move to relook at major hill stations in the Himalayan range as strategic outposts rather than mere holiday destinations. The proposals include taking trains up to Karanprayag in Uttarakhand and Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh. By 2017, all the capitals of the northeastern states would be connected by rail. All these new hill projects have been declared national projects, which means there will be no fund crunch.

But whereas the Chinese have completed projects in a timebound manner, Indian ones have gone off-track once too frequently. Take the case of the 253-km long Lhasa-Xigaze line, a four-year project, will meet its 2014 deadline.

Contrast this with independent India's first big hill project, 345-km Kashmir Railways connecting Jammu with Baramulla. Despite being a national project, it is behind schedule by 10 years. It's now expected to be completed only in 2017.

The delays in the Kashmir project forced the Indian Railways to hand over its `4,295-crore Rishikesh project to its public sector arm Rail Vikas Nigam (RVNL) last year. RVNL has its job cut out as it tackles a difficult engineering project, which includes 81 tunnels and 149 curves.

ET on Sunday takes a look at the status of the various railway projects.

Kashmir Railway

Connecting: Jammu, Udhampur, Srinagar and Baramulla

Length: 345 km

Challenges: The route crosses earthquake zones and inhospitable terrain

Status: Missing link of 173 km between Udhampur and Qazigund is under construction

Earlier Deadline: 2007

New Deadline: 2017

Origin: The project was taken up in 1994; but it got a fresh lease of life after it was declared a national project in 2002

Longest Tunnel, Highest Bridge:

-- 11-km long Pir Panjal railway tunnel is India's longest and Asia's second longest

-- 1.3-km-long bridge across Chenab river will be the world's tallest railway bridge

Railway Pilgrimage: Proposed rail link between Rishikesh and Karanprayag in Uttarakhand

Length: 125 km

Anticipated cost: Rs 4,295 cr

Number of tunnels: 81

Challenges: The line will traverse rugged mountains dissected by streams and gorges.

Execution: The first hill rail project to be executed not directly by the Indian Railways but by rail PSU Rail Vikas Nigam.

Deadline: To be fixed after the final location survey.

Source; http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2012-02-12/news/31050336_1_railway-projects-tallest-railway-bridge-longest-tunnel