Srinagar: Union Minister of Railways, Communications, Electronics and Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnav Saturday said that the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Railway Line (USBRL) project would be completed by January-February 2024.
Addressing media persons at the Srinagar Railway Station at Nowgam, Vaishnav said that after connecting with the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla train service, a specially built Vande Bharat train would be introduced in this rail section.
He said that the budget allocation for USBRL was about Rs 800 crore per year before 2014, which had been increased to Rs 6000 crore in 2022-23.
Vaishnav is on a two-day visit to J&K to inspect the execution of railways works.
He said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was determined to increase and improve the railway network in J&K.
“The Centre is transforming railways in a tremendous way and same efforts are being given in J&K as Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla railway project is a dream project for us,” Vaishnav said.
He said that the Centre was continuously monitoring and releasing funds besides giving tremendous efforts to solve technical problems faced while connecting the “dream project”.
Vaishnav said that the Centre was focused to improve railway facilities besides the postal and telecom facilities in J&K.
He said that the Udhampur-Baramulla railway project was on a progressive path and would be commissioned by December 2023 or January 2024.
“All the major challenges have been accomplished and I am hopeful that by 2023 ending or 2024 beginning, the train will be run from Udhampur to Baramulla,” Vaishnav said. “I inspected the whole railway project here and I will have a detailed review with Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha to be followed by the meeting with Home Minister and the Prime Minister to take decisions about taking the railway project forward because our PM wants to give world’s best facilities to J&K and we all have been put on the job.”
He said that they have received the demand of connecting railways from Sopore to Kupwara, Awantipora to Shopian, and Bijbehara to Pahalgam and the final decision would be taken after holding a meeting with the Home Minister and the Prime Minister.
“I have clearly understood the topography after inspecting the whole railway from Banihal to Baramulla. Once the existing project gets completed then will follow the next decision of expanding the railway network in Kashmir,” Vaishnav said.
He said that the Centre was focused on promoting different varieties of J&K through railways and a stall of ‘One Product One Station’ had been kept at each railway station.
“The idea is to sell unique products including food items, textiles, and handcrafts at these railway stations. Around 750 such stalls have opened for promotion of products across the country,” Vaishnav said.
He said that they want to bring J&K at par with other states in terms of development of railway infrastructure.
Vaishnav said that electrification was almost completed while stations had been developed as well.
“Special coaches will be commissioned soon,” he said.
Besides the advancement in railway connectivity, the Union Minister said that the Centre was focused on improving the telecom facilities in each corner of J&K.
“Our focus is to reach out to every corner of J&K with 4G and 5G facilities. Telecom towers will be installed in every village to have seamless connectivity,” the Union Minister said.
He said around 500 new towers had been sanctioned and work was going at a good pace to ensure telecom connectivity in Ladakh.
“Wherever land issues come up we have been solving it. All the areas in J&K and Ladakh will get seamless connectivity. In the next year and a half BSNL will give the best quality telecom network in J&K and Ladakh. Our private companies like Jio and Airtel are also expanding their reach,” he said.
Earlier, the minister visited Budgam Railway Station and inquired about various procedures related to maintenance of trains at Carriage and Wagon Depot, Budgam. He had a detailed discussion with the officers on all matters related to maintenance of trains and gave necessary guidelines.
Vaishnav then undertook a journey from Budgam Railway Station to Baramulla Railway Station by special inspection car.
He made a detailed overview of the safety and security of the railway section and took stock of the passenger amenities at Baramulla Railway Station.
The minister discussed with the concerned railway officers the development works to be done at Baramulla Railway Station.
He also interacted with the railway employees and inspected the dry fruit stall of ‘One Station One Product’.
Vaishnav appreciated the local dry fruits of Baramulla and purchased them using digital mode of payment.
After this, Vaishnav reached Srinagar Railway Station in a special inspection car. The Parcel Office was inaugurated at Srinagar Railway Station in presence of the minister.
He also inspected the stall of ‘One Station One Product’ at Srinagar Railway Station.