Travel for devotees to the famous Vaishno Devi shrine will become more comfortable with trains expected to go right up to Katra, the shrine’s base camp, from August.
Railways is going to open the 25-km Udhampur-Katra rail link in August as work on the difficult route is almost complete. The national transporter is also working with the state government to integrate permit slips for Vaishno Devi Darshan with the train ticket.
“We are in talks with the J&K government. The passenger can get permit slips while booking the train ticket,” said V K Gupta, GM, Northern Railways.
The next step is an evaluation by the Commissioner of Railway Safety as safety clearance from the watchdog is mandatory before a new route becomes operational, an official said.
Most of the work, except the laying of ballast-less track on a 3.1-km-long tunnel, the most difficult on the route, is almost complete now, Gupta said. After the commissioning of the new route, pilgrims will be able to reach the base camp of the Vaishno Devi shrine at Katra without having to break their journey at Jammu. An estimated 10 million devotees visit the Vaishno Devi shrine annually.
The Udhampur-Katra rail route — to be completed at an estimated cost of Rs 960 crore — passes through hostile terrain, making it an extremely challenging railways 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.
While no decision has been taken on the number of trains which will go to Katra, once the line is operational, any train coming to Uddhampur can be extended to Katra.