NEW DELHI: In a significant development, the Indian Railways is looking at pitching the strategic Bilaspur-Manali-Leh railway project on the India-China border as a national project to get central funding with the project’s estimated cost pegged at a whopping Rs 83,360 crore.
The Bilaspur-Mandi-Leh Rail Line, with a route length 465 km is of great national significance as the project is of both strategic and economic, development and tourism importance, with its unique distinction being the highest railway track in the world.
Describing it as the most difficult project undertaken by the Indian Railways, General Manager, Northern Railway, Vishesh Chaube said told The New Indian Express, “The first phase of the survey for the project has been completed with initial estimates pegged at around Rs 83,360 crore. It is one of five most significant projects in terms of strategic importance and will cut the distance between Delhi to Leh by as much as 20 hours."
He said that the railways has suggested declaring it a project of national importance as it would provide better connectivity to the armed forces and increase tourism in the region and the central government provides funding for such projects. The Indian Railways has also suggested for immediately starting construction of the 51 km stretch between Upshi in Himachal Pradesh and Phe in Leh.
The alignment shall connect Mandi, Kullu, Manali, Keylong and other important towns of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir states enroute. The line from Bilaspur shall be further connected to Bhanupali between Anandpur Sahib and Nangal Dam.
The proposed alignment passes through the Shivalik, Great Himalayan and Zanskar Ranges, areas with wide variation in height (600m to 5300 m above mean sea level) and Seismic zone IV and V, necessitating building of 74 tunnels, 124 major bridges and 396 minor bridges.