The foot hills of Katra, base camp of Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine nestled in the Trikuta hills, is all set to welcome the arrival of world’s largest railway network in its picturesque valley.
The township which is in the habit of waking up to the ‘jugal bandi’ of musical beads wrapped around ponies, mules ferrying pilgrims up the zig zag track will now hear loud whistle of train chugging in from Udhampur.
Now when the successful trail run of the special train has been conducted by the Northern Railways the morale of the railway engineers is quite high and they are all getting ready for the flag off ceremony early next month.
According to official sources, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh is scheduled to inaugurate the much awaited rail line between Udhampur and Katra early next year. “It will be new year’s gift to the pilgrims reaching here in large numbers from all corners of the country”, railway engineers who supervised the trial run told Jammu Redefining.
After touching the 1 crore mark the pilgrim traffic this year may have recorded a slight decrease in numbers but the tour operators and people linked with the pilgrimage industry are hoping to record steep rise in numbers from next year.
The direct connectivity of the Katra township with the rest of the country is all set to boost the pilgrim traffic to the base camp and redefine the pilgrimage.
The pilgrims who till now descended at Jammu railway station would be headed straight to Katra and get the opportunity to savour the scenic beauty of the hills.
The hospitality industry is all set to woo the pilgrims from next year with renewed enthusiasm. Large number of hotels and restaurants and other utilities have come up in Katra township to woo the pilgrims and ensure better and comfortable stay.
To ensure no further delays are caused in launching the rail services the General Manager Northern Railway VK Gupta personally supervised the 25 km long rail link on board special train along with senior officials of the different wings.
Ahead of formal launch of rail services the track will be inspected by the Commissioner Railway Safety (CRS),Gupta said.
On the day of the trial run, special prayers were offered by the officers of the Northern Railway at the north portal of T1 Tunnel as it proved to be the stumbling block.
This tunnel having a length of 3.1 kilometers was the most problematic part of the entire project as seepage of water in this tunnel had caused delay in the construction of project for several years.
Along the serpentine route the train will cross Jhajjar Bridge, which has the height of 82 meter—10 meter more than the height of Qutab Minar.
Following opening of this track, pilgrims from different parts of the country would be able to directly reach holy town of Katra by train. The state government is also gearing up to provide all basic amenities to the pilgrims and aiming at boosting pilgrim traffic in the region. The near by tourist points and local population which earn their livelihood by servicing pilgrims and local tourists are upbeat. With the arrival of the train in Katra the local economy of the region will get a big boost. The mood of the people is upbeat as mere announcement of trail run generated lot of enthusiasm among the local population.
According to the sources, a proposal has been sent to the concerned authorities of the Railways Ministry seeking extension of train coverage to all the regions of the country besides some pairs of DMUs for Udhampur-Katra track as are being presently run on Jammu-Udhampur track.