SRI NAGAR: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday flagged off the first train along the 25.6-km-long Katra-Udhampur rail line in Jammu and Kashmir and said the train service was a gift not only to the state, but to the entire country.
The inauguration of the train service from Katra, the base camp of the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine, to Udhampur is expected to make travelling easy for pilgrims.
Presently, trains ply up to Udhampur from Jammu. Now trains will start operating up to Katra, providing all-weather connectivity to pilgrims and reducing travel time.
The three pairs of train services which are currently functional between Jammu and Udhampur will be extended to Katra. The Railways is also planning to run three pairs of Express trains from New Delhi, Kalka, Ahmedabad, Mumbai and Bangalore to Katra.
Before flagging off the train, Modi spoke to schoolchildren who were on board the first train from Katra.
He suggested that solar energy could 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, 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 also to the 125 crore Indians who wish to visit the shrine,” Modi said while speaking at a function, after flagging of the first train from Katra.
Modi has suggested the name “Shri Shakti Express” for the train. “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.
He added that his government would continue to work towards fulfilling former PM Vajpayee’s dream, by extending the line to Banihal. He said they would forward the initiative of connecting J&K with the railway route that Vajpayee had started.
The Prime Minister said rail and bus connectivity had 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, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said the rail line was a dream come true and spoke of the significant contribution made by Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh in realizing this cherished desire of the people.
Jammu and Kashmir Governor N N Vohra, Union Minister for Railways Sadananda Gowda, MoS Railways Manoj Sinha, MoS PMO Jitendra Singh, and Chairman of Railway Board Arunendra Kumar were also present on the occasion.