Kashmir rail link faces further delay

Eighth Supreme Court hearing on March 28

shivani

Shivani Chaturvedi | March 18, 2011



The next Supreme Court hearing related to the much-delayed Kashmir rail link project is on March 28. This will be the eighth hearing. But neither the railways nor the government is ready to take a call on reviewing the project.

The Jammu-Udhampur-Katra-Quazigund-Baramulla link was to be developed to provide an alternative transportation system to Jammu and Kashmir. The project aimed to link Kashmir Valley to the rest of the country. At present the valley is connected by only a road link.

The work on the project started in 2002 and was to be completed in five years. Then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee announced it as a project of national importance which was to be fully funded by the government. It was a fast-track project. However, till 2008 not even five percent of the work was completed due to implications of wrong alignment. There is a big question on construction of the 120 km Katra-Banihal stretch.

As per news reports, senior railway officials connected with the project made a serious mistake. The project was designed on a serpentine model (a highly curved alignment) which is not feasible on mountain and valley areas. The officers even tried to cover up the matter and presented false picture of progress on the project. Chief engineer AK Verma blew the whistle and also presented an alternative plan to carry out the project. But the officers kept him away from the project and even transferred him.

The review into the existing model began in 2007. The railway board took a decision to abandon 3/4th of the alignment and retain 1/4th. But till now the existing model hasn’t been scrapped. The railways are trying to recommence the work on the existing model.

The Kashmir rail link project is in serious crises. The matter has been taken to the apex court. When there is no stay from the Supreme Court on carrying out a review, why is the government not taking any step?

There has already been a loss of Rs 4,000 crore on the project and the contractors are making claims of Rs 1,300 crore.

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