STATE TIMES NEWS
JAMMU: Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, underlined the need of early completion of Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Railway line saying this will lead to tourism, trade and social/ national integration.
Azad was speaking on the Railway Budget on Tuesday as the Railway Minister was to wrap up the discussion before moving the motion to seek approval of RS to the proposals.
Underscoring the importance of this vital railway project which will connect Kashmir Valley with the rest of the country, Azad said that upon completion, the benefits of trade, tourism and national integration will flow profuse out of it.
Azad especially mentioned about handicrafts and fruits of Kashmir Valley saying these sectors will receive tremendous fillip due to rail connectivity and unleash the economic potential of the State to the full. “Job opportunities for the youth of the State will increase and economic activity will ignite”, said Azad adding that there will be quantum jump in tourist inflow as the journey by train will be cheap, safe and interesting for the travelers.
Drawing attention of Railway Minister towards the Sreedharan Committee which has reportedly recommended changes in the alignment, Azad said that this would cause further delay in the completion of railway connectivity with Kashmir Valley of the rest of the country.
Citing statistics, Azad said that delays lead to massive cost escalation and this strains the finances of the Railway Ministry.
Expressing serious concern over the reported plans to shelve Kauri- Bakkal Railway Bridge on river Chenab, Azad said that this will inordinately delay the project and may take decades to connect J and K State with the rest of the country.
Azad said Kauri- Bakkal Rail Bridge is a prestigious and unique engineering marvel that will come up as world’s highest railway bridge and leaving it halfway will be a big disappointment for the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Referring to Millau Viaduct bridge in Southern France, Azad wondered if a 323 meter high bridge can sustain for decades, why the bridge of 359 meters from river-bed can be a challenge.
He said, frequent change of alignments, has caused huge losses in terms of time and cost overruns and that the reported proposal to abandon the Kauri- Bakkal Railway Bridge will neither be good economically nor otherwise.
Urging the Railway Minister to lay new railway lines in J and K State, Azad emphasised that Jammu-Poonch, Doda-Kishtwar and Baramulla-Kupwara-Tangdhar may be sanctioned for extending railway connectivity to all the parts of the State.
Azad also suggested to the Railway Minister to rent out the exterior walls of the trains for advertising and promotional activities, as this will fetch revenues to the Railways besides making them colourful, attractive and clean. He also called for profitable use of vacant railway lands around the railway stations by devising appropriate policies in Public-Private Partnership mode and in consultation with other ministries. Azad recalled the MOU signed between Railway Ministry and Health Ministry to set up hospitals and medical colleges on vacant railway lands.
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