07 May 2023
Indian Railways is getting closer to finishing work on a new rail line connecting Indian-controlled Kashmir to the rest of India.
Officials say the line could bring big changes to the area. They say it will permit faster movement of people, goods, and security workers.
Indian-controlled Kashmir shares a border with India's two main competitors, Pakistan and China.
Darshana Jardosh is India's minister of state for railways. During a visit to check on progress on the line, she said the railway network is important for security.
Officials say the 272-kilometer Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link (USBRL) project involves highly advanced engineering knowledge. The line runs through a mountainous area.
Irfan Mushtaq, a contractor for Konkan Railways, is building a railway station at Reasi, near the southern end of the line. He told VOA that it had been one of the most challenging projects he has ever worked on because of the terrain, lack of skilled laborers and bad weather.
"We have worked day and night for this project to complete. This project will benefit the locals of Reasi and the people of the region as a whole," he said.
The USBRL was declared a "national project" in 2002.
Officials say the line will contain the world's highest rail bridge, 38 tunnels and 931 bridges. The Chenab Bridge crosses the Chenab River at a height of 366 meters. The tunnels will have a combined length of 119 kilometers. The system will include the two longest transportation tunnels in India at 12.75 and 11.2 kilometers.
The project also includes the Anji Khad Bridge, Indian Railway's first cable-supported rail bridge. The 750-meter bridge will cross high above the Anji Khad River. The part supported by cables will be 473 meters long.
India created a rail connection to Jammu after gaining independence from British rule in 1947. The first passenger train arrived at Jammu station in December 1972. But it has taken another 50 years for Indian Railways to build the rail line through to the Kashmir Valley.
Devendra Sharma is a site engineer with the company Afcons Infrastructure Ltd. It has been building a bridge at Reasi since 2016. He praised the jobs created by the project and noted that the company hires local workers.
"On average, we employed 700-800 laborers daily to complete this bridge, which we expect to complete by the end of May," Sharma said.
Officials say the railway line will also increase tourism in the region and give local farmers access to a larger market.
However, some Kashmiris are concerned the project could harm the area. It currently is India's only Muslim majority region. Some local Muslims worry that the rail line could change that.
Some also oppose the increased military presence in the area that is expected as a result of the project.
I'm Faith Pirlo.
Bilal Hussain wrote this story for Voice of America. Andrew Smith adapted it for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
advanced -adj. having a high level of skill or difficulty
challenging -adj. difficult to do
region -n. a geographic area
cable -n. a kind of strong, think wire or rope, often used to support of hang heavy objects
tourism -n. the business and activities related to travel