Srinagar, July 9 (IANS) Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on Thursday flagged off four new trains between Baramulla in the Kashmir Valley and Bannihal in Jammu region.
The flagging off ceremony — which was attended by Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed and Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh and senior railway officials — took place in Srinagar.
Around 30,000 people use train services between the two places, Prabhu said.
Earlier in the day, Prabhu and Sayeed discussed wide-ranging issues related to introduction of more train services and completion of the Katra-Banihal railway line within the stipulated time.
Once complete, the Katra-Banihal line will provide all-weather link to the Kashmir Valley with the rest of India.
The chief minister stressed putting in place an institutional grid to fast-track progress on all issues pertaining to the line.
The proposed high-level committee shall have one nodal officer each from the state government and the railway ministry, and will regularly meet to iron out the issues and expedite work on the most difficult stretch.
Of the 111-km-long long Katra-Banihal rail stretch, nearly 85 km will comprise tunnels and there will also be an 8-10 km-long bridge on very rugged and difficult terrain, a railway official said.
Sayeed requested Prabhu to introduce special services like Palace on Wheels to various tourist destinations across the state.
He also suggested opening of new Passenger Reservation Service (PRS) Centres in Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Sonamarg and Patnitop for tourists.
Prabhu informed Sayeed about plans to start a train service exclusively for tourists, with support from the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), that will serve Kashmiri cuisine.
To promote the state’s artefacts, Prabhu said there will be stalls at various railway stations.
The chief minister also raised the issue of developing a 200-km access road — to be constructed by the Railways — as an alternate road link between Katra and Srinagar.
Prabhu said a meeting will be held with the union road transport ministry in New Delhi to chalk out a plan.
Sayeed urged Prabhu to consider giving jobs to people whose land was acquired for laying of rail tracks, as they were facing difficulties due to loss of livelihood.
The chief minister said his government will also train local youth in maintaining tracks and other related jobs to increase their chances of employment.