Railways To Start Final Survey For Construction Of World’s Highest  Track Connecting Leh And Manali An 18 km railway line linking Qazigund to Banihal in Kashmir. (Abid Bhat)

To improve connectivity of Leh and adjoining areas in Jammu and Kashmir state with other parts of India, the Indian Railways has started work on its ambitious plan to link the cold desert of Ladakh with Manali in Himachal Pradesh with a high-elevation all-weather rail track at the height of 3,300 metres.

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu will inaugurate the work for the final location survey on 27 June for examining geology, constructability, maintainability and safety issues related to the project, the Times of India has reported.

The government has handed over the responsibility of final location survey work to Rail India Technical and Economic Service. The cost of construction of the 498-km railway line has been estimated at Rs 50,000 crore, while the survey alone is set to cost the government Rs 157 crore.

Undoubtedly, the rail link will be of immense strategic importance. The region is linked to other parts of India through the Kashmir Valley. Unrest in the Valley or foreign invasion, as seen in form of Kargil incursions by Pakistan, threatens to cut off the route to this frontier part that is partially occupied by China.

The government is planning to construct 14 strategic rail lines along India’s frontiers. Bilaspur-Manali-Leh (498km), Missamari-Tenga-Tawang (378km), North Lakhimpur-Bame-Silapathar (249km) and Pasighat-Tezu-Rupai (227km) are the four projects along India’s border with China that the government has decided to take up in the first phase. Once the rail track is commissioned, transportation of personnel and equipment to military bases in the region will be easier.

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