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Feb 13, 2009 at 10:16am IST

Railways suspend work on Kashmir's rail link

Resai (Jammu and Kashmir: The 125-km long Katra-Qazigund rail link, which will finally bring the Kashmir Valley on the railway map, has been suspended.

The prestigious mountain rail project is now turning out to be an embarrassment for the railways following apprehensions that the track alignment is unsafe.

So the Railway Ministry's ambitious project of taking the train to Kashmir, cutting across the Pir Panjal range, seems to be falling apart.

The work has been suspended on the 125-km long Katra -Qazigund link for the last six months following arguments that the alignment is unsafe and prone to tectonic movements.

But the decision comes after five years of work and nearly Rs 2,000 crore of investment.

But the question is if the existing alignment is unsafe then why was it cleared in the first place? Why weren't proper risk assessment and geological surveys done before starting construction and now who will take responsibility for the loss of time and taxpayers money?

The rail link is already way past its initial deadline of 2007 and more delays could push the completion date beyond 2020.

The new alignment, say officials, will reduce the distance from 125 to 81 kms, but will also scrap the construction of the world's highest bridge over Chenab.

The site, which the railways had showed off proudly, remains deserted these days.

"They are citing the reason that Chenab bridge is not safe. The bridge will collapse after the completion because of the arch load. That is there is worry but it is baseless," claims Chenab Bridge Project Officer DS Kunar.

The suspension of work has also affected over 40,000 people across 150 villages.

Men like Bhoori Ram in Kauri village gave up their agricultural land to the railways, and worked as daily labourer.

"We were happy when they said the rail will come here. Now work has stopped and we have no alternative. We have no land and no source of income now," says Bhoori Ram.

So now there is no land, no job and no train.