In April 2005, trains started running for the first time between Jammu and Udhampur. The people of the valley saw a railway engine for very first time chugging away along the mountains. Hitherto, to take a train, they had to come down to Jammu by road and from there go all over the country.
The British did not have the capacity to build a rail network in this terrain. Post independence, there were railway ministers and even prime ministers who made promises but nothing else. However, it finally came to a head with AB Vajpayee declaring it a National Project and virtually called out to every one “All Hands on Deck”.
The entire line runs from Jammu right upto Baramulla. However, only two portions are currently operational – the Jammu Udhampur link in the south and the Qazigund-Baramulla link in the north 9which opened in October 2009.
The bits in between have had major design realigment due to geological conditions. The Pir Panjal Mountains were in the middle and there was a small matter of crossing the Chenab.
That a railway can drive an economy has already been validated in many parts of the world. The same is true here. This article reports on a few stories coming from the region.
The change is also visible in the lifestyles of the people. They travel in Sumos, not buses and many of them have replaced their old houses of mud and thatched roofs with cement and brick houses, dotted with dish antennas. ” We too have constructed a new house. There is no fear. It is a sense of permanency and good life that has made us to look at the life this way,” Jameel said.
” There is a transformation of both landscape and mindset,” Mubbasir Latifi, SSP Ramban, sums up the make over of the hills because of the rail coming to hills. And the way JCB machines, bulldozers and excavators are working; the hills are proving their nature of life providers.
Security is of course a big concern and there are plans to put lots of closed circuit cameras on bridges, tunnels, etc.
The trains themselves are fairly sophisticated and at least from this photograph looks inviting.
These balance links are expected to take another 4-5 years. This will be one train journey that must be taken just for the ride.