Katra: Breakthrough Ceremony at T1 - P1 & P2 Tunnel Gunni - Serwad (USBRL Rail Link Project)

Katra: Breakthrough Ceremony at T1 - P1 & P2 Tunnel Gunni - Serwad (USBRL Rail Link Project)

A substantial hurdle, which was delaying work in the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link (USBRL) project, was overcome after the Indian Railways achieved a breakthrough in a three kilometre-long tunnel in the Jammu section of the project on Wednesday. 

The big ticket project is slated to be inaugurated before the 2024 Lok Sabha election, and will enable the running of passenger trains between Jammu and Kashmir. Currently, the Indian Railways runs a Vande Bharat Express from New Delhi to Katra in Jammu. 

Officials working in the USBRL project told The Hindu that drilling through the three kilometre-long first tunnel was extremely difficult because of the sensitive young Himalayan terrain. “There was tremendous amount of water leakage and we had to tunnel through the water flow. With exuding water, rocks become softer and we have to drill through while stabilising the loose rock material,” officials said. 

Of the 272-km-long USBRL project, 161 km has been already commissioned. The 111 km-long Katra-Banihal section is its most challenging.

“This section predominantly involves tunnelling up to 97.42 km of the 111 km, which is 87% of length of the Katra- Banal section, is in tunnels. The maximum length is that of tunnel T-49, which is 12.77 km. This will be longest transportation railway tunnel in the country,” Ashwini Vaishnaw, Union Railways Minister, said in his written reply to an unstarred question in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday. 

Mr. Vaishnaw further said that the USBRL project is possibly the most difficult new railway line project undertaken in the country post-Independence. “The terrain passes through young Himalayas, which are full of geological surprises and numerous problems,” Mr. Vaishnaw said.  

Mr. Vaishnaw further said that the anticipated cost of the USBRL project was ₹37,012 crore, against which expenditure of ₹34,261 crore had been incurred up to March 2023. “An outlay of ₹5,310 crore has been allocated for the year 2023-24,” he stated. 
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