SRINAGAR: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday flagged off much awaited 25.6 kms long Katra-Udhampur train in Jammu and Kashmir and said it is gift not only to the State but to entire India.
With the start of train service from Katra, base camp of Mata Vaishno Devi, to Udhampur, the pilgrims can now travel directly from train from New Delhi via Jammu. At present trains ply up to Udhampur from Jammu. Now trains will start operating upto Katra, providing an- all weather connectivity to pilgrims and reduce travel time.
3 pairs of train services currently plying between Jammu to Udhampur will be extended to Katra. The Railway is also planning to run 3 pairs of Express trains from New Delhi, Kalka, Ahmedabad, Mumbai and Bangalore to Katra.
Before flagging off the train, Prime Minister spoke to schoolchildren on board the first train from Katra and went around the railway station.
He suggested that solar energy be used to meet the energy requirements of the station. “Let Katra railway station be an environment-friendly, people-friendly railway station that inspires the use of solar energy”.
“With the ongoing Amarnath Yatra, and the holy month of Ramadan, and now this new railway line that brings Mata Vaishno Devi closer to her devotees, it has become an extremely pious occasion. This railway line is not just a gift to Jammu and Kashmir, but to the entire nation, to 125 crore Indians who wish to come to the shrine,” Modi said while speaking at a function after flagging of the first train from Katra.
He said he had suggested to the Railway Minister that the train be named “Shri Shakti Express”.
“Katra is now coming to the centre-stage in J&K`s development, and will contribute as an engine of growth for the State,” Modi said adding his government will continue to work towards fulfilling Vajpayee`s dream, by extending the line to Banihal.
He said they will forward the initiative of connecting J&K with railway route started by Vajpayee.
PM said rail and bus connectivity have been combined for the first time. “A passenger will be able to travel on both bus and train through a single ticket,” he said and described this as a hybrid model.
Speaking on the occasion, J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said rail in Kashmir was a dream and referred the significant contribution made by Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh in realizing this cherished desire of the people.
He stressed the need for linking Poonch-Rajouri, Doda-Kishtwar in Jammu division with the railways and extension of railway tracks in Kashmir to various places especially Tangmarg, Pahalgam and other tourist resorts.
J&K Governor N N Vohra, J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, Union Minister for Railways, Sadananda Gowda, MoS Railways Manoj Sinha, MoS PMO Jitendra Singh, and Chairman, Railway Board, Arunendra Kumar were also present on the occasion.