After facing hurdles due to “security concerns” for its launch, Railway authorities have written to various law enforcing agencies asking for their clearance to run Kashmir’s first glass-roofed AC train.
A senior railway official wishing anonymity told Greater Kashmir that railways has recently sought permission from Railway Protection Force (RPF) and Government Railway Police ( GRP) for starting operations of the special train for which coaches have already been brought to the Valley.
“We have been hoping that the luxury coach be operated during tourist season for which we have sought permission from all concerned law enforcing agencies including RPF and GRP. We are awaiting a response from their side,” the official said.
Even after conducting the successful trial run of the luxury glass-top train announced during 2017 union Budget, Railway authorities have been hesitant in operating it in the Valley. The official said even though the glass-roofed train for J&K was announced simultaneously with Himachal Pradesh, the latter has already got the luxury train where it is being operated on the Kalka-Shimla route and has attracted a large number of tourists.
As per railway officials the frequent “law and order problems” in the Valley have been a major roadblock. Authorities have to often suspend the rail services on the 137-kilometer rail line between Banihal and Baramulla as a “precautionary measure”.
A senior railway official told Greater Kashmir that 63 partial shutdowns and 29 complete suspension of railway services were witnessed in 2018, causing railways to suffer losses amounting to Rs 1.21 crore. The highest number of times train service was suspended was in June 2018 when it remained off the track for 12 days.
“On an average, we have Rs 2 lakh earnings daily which means we have suffered almost Rs 1.21 crore losses in 2018. In addition maintaining the assets of the railways also involves a huge cost which puts us in red. But we are hoping that good sense prevails and the vistadome coach becomes a reality,” said the railways official.
The trial run of this first air conditioned train was successfully held from Srinagar to Sadura in Anantnag last year. The railway official said after receiving the necessary permissions and completion of other formalities special AC train will run in the Valley. Catering and other facilities being provided in this AC train is also in the pipeline.
“The rooftop of this train is made of glass while windowpanes are much bigger in size than the regular railway coaches so that both locals and tourists boarding the train can enjoy the scenic locales of the Valley,” said the official.
On both front and rear side of the AC train, two coaches have been fixed for providing the heating to the special train while both will be side engines, he added.
“This train has been designed for sightseeing. There are spacious windows and seats in the coach. We have even kept sun roofs in it. It is also equipped with air-conditioned facility in view of extreme cold and hot summers here,” said Kumar. The Vistadome coaches will have features like LED lights, rotatable seats and GPS-based information system, the railway official said.