From bridging economic gaps to enhancing security, the strategic significance of the USBRL project is set to reshape the destiny of Kashmir, propelling it towards a brighter, more connected future
By Shahid Shabir Hussain Makhdoomi
In a groundbreaking endeavor personally overseen by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Railway Link (USBRL), a project of immense national significance, is set to revolutionize connectivity to the landlocked Kashmir Valley. With a projected cost of Rs 37,012.26 crore, this ambitious undertaking aims to provide uninterrupted access to the Himalayan region, irrespective of weather conditions, thereby transforming the region in multiple ways. This state-of-the-art mass transportation system promises to be a game changer, ensuring all-weather convenience, comfort, and cost-effectiveness. Notably, it is expected to act as a catalyst for comprehensive development in this remote alpine territory, marking a significant milestone for the northernmost region of the country. Revolutionary Railway Link: Kashmir’s Connectivity Transformation
Connecting Kashmir to the rest of the country is a welcome step that holds immense potential. The railway connectivity will not only bridge the gap but also open up new economic opportunities for the people residing in the area.
For decades, Jammu and Kashmir has been cut off from the rest of India in terms of rail connectivity, heavily relying on road transportation for both passengers and goods. The absence of railway connectivity has made travel to and from the region difficult, cumbersome, and time-consuming, impacting the economy and hindering overall development.
The completion of this project will be a significant achievement for the government, as it represents a crucial step towards the integration of the region with the rest of India, paving the way for further growth in the area.
The completion of the project will have a profound impact on the economy of Jammu and Kashmir, as it will unlock new opportunities for trade and commerce. Additionally, it will enhance connectivity for tourism, which is a vital contributor to the state’s economy. The railway line will also improve access to healthcare and education facilities in the region.
Strategically, the project holds great importance, enabling the swift movement of troops and equipment to the region in case of emergencies. The railway line will provide a faster and more efficient mode of transportation for the security forces stationed in the area.
Recognizing the project’s strategic and economic significance, the visionary leadership of the country has accorded it the attention it deserves. This project is expected to bring about socio-economic development in Jammu and Kashmir through enhanced connectivity within the region and with the rest of the country, shaping the future of this region for the better.
The Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Railway Link is a remarkable engineering marvel, traversing rugged terrains, tectonic thrusts, and the challenges posed by the young Himalayas. The presence of carved tunnels and cable-stayed bridges along the track adds to its allure. Notably, the iconic cable-stayed bridge over Chenab stands as a testament to the unparalleled skills of the engineers and planners associated with the project.
The Chenab Bridge, at a towering height of 359 meters from the river bed, holds the distinction of being the world’s highest railway bridge. Stretching over 1315 meters, it consists of 17 spans, with the longest span being an arch span of 467 meters, spanning the Chenab River valley. The bridge is designed to withstand wind speeds of up to 266 kmph, earthquakes of zone-V, and even blast loads, making it a remarkable engineering feat in India.
Another fascinating aspect of the bridge is the extensive welding work, approximately 584 kilometers, done to join different parts of the structure—a distance equivalent to that between Jammu Tawi and New Delhi. Additionally, the cable crane’s pylon at the Srinagar end stands tall at 127 meters, surpassing the height of the Qutub Minar, which stands at 72 meters.
Overcoming challenges, achieving unimaginable success, and setting milestones, this ambitious project has turned into a reality since independence. The socio-economic development of this region is likely to scale new heights, with increased tourist inflow and improved transportation of horticultural produce. The Kashmir craft industry is poised to witness a new dawn with access to the national market. This railway link will bridge economic gaps and bring about prosperity, acting as a catalyst for tourism development and revitalizing Kashmir’s tourism industry, ultimately creating a win-win situation for all.
Moreover, this project will pave the way for the further expansion of the railway network in Kashmir, serving as a path to prosperity. Reliable connectivity and transportation within the union territory and between the region and the rest of India are crucial for India’s economic growth. Inadequate connectivity has hindered the economic development of 70 percent of the Valley’s population, which relies on farming and perishable fruit cultivation. The completion of these infrastructure projects will boost the horticulture sector, a cornerstone of the region’s economy, by reducing transport costs, minimizing wastage of perishable farm products, and ensuring timely supply to markets across India. Furthermore, the unhindered movement of agricultural goods on the highway will be a game changer for the Valley’s farmers.
The completion of these infrastructure projects will not only boost the horticulture sector but also invigorate the tourism industry, allowing it to reach its full potential and addressing the high unemployment rate in the union territory. As a result, new destinations will emerge along these new connectivity corridors. Post-2019, Jammu and Kashmir has once again become India’s favorite tourist destination, attracting 1.88 crore domestic and international tourists in 2022.
To accommodate the growing number of tourists and promote new destinations, the UT administration will need to create additional tourism infrastructure. However, it is crucial to prioritize the conservation and protection of ecology and environment to avoid natural disasters and calamities, considering the fragility of the zone.
Furthermore, seamless connectivity with the rest of India will encourage local students to travel to different parts of the country for education and employment, fostering the revival of Kashmir’s syncretic culture and purposeful integration of the region’s society.
This railway link holds equal strategic importance, strengthening the security of the region that shares long borders with China and Pakistan.
By embracing inclusive development and achieving growth and prosperity, Kashmir is poised to emerge on the international stage with all the colors of a rainbow, healing its scars along the way.
With the completion of the ambitious Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Railway Link, Jammu and Kashmir’s socio-economic landscape takes a leap forward, fostering trade, employment, and cultural integration with the rest of India.