Modi said the Centre will further enhance the rail connectivity in Jammu and Kashmir and added that Banihal rail line will be linked to the rest of the country directly.

Asserting that the new rail link will speed up the process of development in the state, Modi said, “When progress takes place at one place, some people at other places feel neglected ... as the Chief Minister has said about the apprehensions of the people of Jammu city. I want to assure the people of Jammu that their interests will be protected. I do not believe anybody will come to Katra and not visit Jammu city,” said Modi.

“Building of infrastructure is a holistic exercise. Whenever development takes place at one place, its benefits reach all places,” he added.

Modi also suggested that the train be named ‘Shree Shakti Express’.  ‘Shree’ is one of the names of Goddess Durga.

"I congratulate the crores of devotees of Mata Vaishno Devi, who want to come here for pilgrimage from all across the country," he said while dedicating the train to the nation.

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Development of J & K depends on railways: Omar

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah thanked Modi for inaugurating the railway track from Udhampur to Katra and expressed hope that the state’s demand for extension of the railway link to various areas would be accommodated for the larger economic and developmental interests of the state.

Underlining that economic development of Jammu and Kashmir is largely dependent on railways, the Chief Minister on Friday stressed the need for early completion of unconnected stretches of Jammu-Baramulla railway track.
Omar said that economic linkage of Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of the country is dependent on railways and it will get a comprehensive boost by this initiative.

Addressing the gathering at the inauguration of the Katra rail line project by the Prime Minister, Omar also underscored the need for linking Poonch-Rajouri, Doda-Kishtwar in Jammu division and extension of railway tracks in Kashmir Valley to various places particularly Tangmarg, Pahalgam and other tourist resorts.
Omar said that rail services in Kashmir was a dream and referred the significant contribution made by former prime ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh in realising ‘this cherished desire of the people’.
Omar also sought the Prime Minister's intervention in upgrading and developing the Jammu Railway Station besides the implementation of various tourist and beautification projects to make Jammu and Srinagar the model cities of the country.

The Chief Minister later reminded people in a tweet, “The train won't go to Vaishno Devi it will go to Katra. It's still a 15 KM climb to the temple so "train to Vaishno Devi" is overselling it.”

Digvijay Singh hopes Modi doesn't forget UPA’s effort

Taking a jibe at the Prime Minister, Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh said the UPA government’s efforts in this regard should not be forgotten.

“I hope Modi doesn't forget all those who made it possible particularly the effort made by the UPA Govt,” Singh said on micro-blogging site Twitter.

“Connecting Jammu with Srinagar by rail is one of the most challenging Engineering Feat. Kudos to all those who are making it possible,” he added.

PM hints at increased role of private sector in railways

The Prime Minister Narendra Modi also hinted at an increased role of the private sector in development of railways.
“We want the railway stations to have better facilities than airports. This is our dream and it is not a difficult thing to do and this is economically viable too. I have discussed it in detail with my Railway friends. You will see a change in near future,” said Modi.

“In that, private parties would also be ready to invest because this is a good project economically and will benefit everyone. This would be a win-win situation project and we want to move ahead in this direction in the coming days,” he said.

The Prime Minister said the railway stations in metros and important cities such as Jammu would be priority for the government with regard to development of railway stations.
He said the Railway Ministry has been given a detailed outline of the project.
Railways Minister Sadananda Gowda will present his maiden Rail Budget in the Parliament on July 8. The Centre has already hiked the fares for passenger travel and freight transportation.

Udhampur-Katra rail line

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda, Governor of Jammu & Kashmir, N N Vohra, J&K CM Omar Abdullah flagging off the first train (Shri Shakti Express) to Udhampur, from Katra Railway Station

The train connectivity to Katra is part of the ambitious Kashmir rail link project that will connect the Kashmir Valley with rest of the country. The last link between Katra and Banihal pass is expected to be completed by 2018.
The 25-km long Udhampur-Katra line, commissioned after prolonged delays, has been built at an estimated cost of Rs 1,132.75 crore.

The train will traverse through seven tunnels and over 30 small and large bridges. There will be a small station - Chakrakhwal - between Udhampur and Katra.       

Trains will be able to reach Katra directly as the 53-km Jammu-Udhampur rail line is already operational. This would enable lakhs of pilgrims headed to the revered Vaishno Devi shrine to travel directly to the base camp at Katra.

"Till now there are three local train services between Jammu and Udhampur and all these will now be extended to Katra," said a senior Railway Ministry official.

The Indian Railways is considering extending Jammu Mail and Sampark Kranti Express up to Katra, besides introducing new trains, including Katra-Kalka Express, New Delhi-Katra AC express.

There is also a possibility of launching a new train between Varanasi and Katra, said the official, adding the purpose is to connect two holy places by train.

According to the official, there are demands from several zones for train services to Katra.

A set of local trains from Jammu to Katra and Pathankot to Katra is also likely to be introduced to cater to the rush of Vaishno Devi pilgrims. An estimated 10 million devotees visit the shrine every year.

The Railway Protection Force (RPF) has been stationed at vulnerable locations all along the track in protected bunkers to maintain round-the-clock vigil.

Katra station is equipped with modern facilities, including tourist guide counter, cloak room, waiting hall, VIP lounge, escalators and lifts and parking spaces.


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