Escalators, lifts and a fully air-conditioned hotel with a shopping lounge and a multi-cuisine food station — these are just some of the facilities available at a world class railway station that has come up in Katra, which is likely to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 4.
Even the 25 km-long railway line between Katra and Udhampur runs though the scenic Shivalik and Trikuta range of the Himalayas. In a first, the Northern Railway has constructed 40 pucca structures — 21 duty huts and 19 sentry posts — at frequent intervals along the railway line so that Railway Police officials guarding it do not have to stay in tents and defecate in the open.
Reviving the ailing Railways by making it a modern, upgraded transport behemoth was part of the BJP’s poll promises. The Diamond Quadrilateral of bullet train corridors may be the most highlighted promise, but the party had also assured to revive Railways “in a manner of national development rather than political exigency” in its 2014 manifesto. As chief minister of Gujarat, Modi was known to lay a red carpet for railway projects — like the dedicated freight corridor and the Ahmedabad-Mumbai high-speed corridor — in terms of availability of land and support from his government. The BJP also promised to set up an Agri-Rail network dedicated to perishable agriculture commodities. Modi recently asked Railways bureaucracy to focus on cleanliness and better transport of perishables such as milk.
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At the moment, Northern Railway officials are working round the clock so that everything is in order for the PM’s visit to Katra — from ensuring pristine, whitewashed platforms to constructing two helipads for the landing of VIP choppers.
The Commissioner of Railways Safety (CRS) gave his mandatory clearance to the train service only last week. This came after all deficiencies, pointed out by the CRS during a three-day track inspection in January this year, were rectified.
Spread over an area of 83 hectares, the station has three platforms — each 550 meters long and big enough to accommodate trains with 26 compartments. A senior Railways official said it can also handle a freight train and has two washing lines and two stabling lines for temporary halting of trains.
It has two escalators and a lift at platform No. 1, with similar facilities being planned for platforms No. 2 and 3. Railway officials said the idea was to help aged and disabled pilgrims travelling to Vaishno Devi.
The two-storey main building also has two lifts, with the first floor comprising a guest house, a multi-cuisine restaurant and a shopping lounge run by the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation.
The Railways has also built canopied shelters for passengers at gardens near platform No. 1. Ramps have been provided at all major points to make the station disabled-friendly.
A huge parking lot has also been constructed to accommodate cars and passenger buses.
Constructed at a cost Rs 1,050 crore, the 25 km-long track has 10 tunnels and 32 bridges. Nearly half of the route passes through tunnels, the longest one measuring 3.15 km. The longest bridge spans 154 meters and is supported on pillars 85 meters in height.
Initially, the Railways plans to run two direct trains from Kalka and Delhi along with three DMUs to Katra, which annually receives over one crore pilgrims. The section is part of the Udhampur-Katra-Qazigund-Srinagar-Baramullah railway line. Except for the area between Katra and Banihal, the railway line is complete on the rest of the stretch.