INDIAN RAILWAYS Construction Corp (Ircon International) has been instructed to start work on a rail link to Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir. Railways Minister Nitish Kumar says that construction of the 90 km Kashmir Valley section linking Baramula, Srinagar and Qazigund near Anantnag should get under way in the current financial year. Detailed design and survey work for this section has been under way since the government allocated Rs1bn to the scheme in mid-1997.
The go-ahead follows approval in January of 12 railway infrastructure projects totalling Rs25bn by the Indian Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs. These cover six new lines, four gauge conversion projects, one double-tracking and one electrification scheme.
The new lines include a 271 km link between Bangalore and Satyamangalam in Tamil Nadu at a cost of Rs6·4bn, a 54 km Baramati - Loand line in Maharashtra costing Rs8·6bn, the 116 km Bidar - Gulbarga line in Karnataka for Rs2·3bn, and a 110 km link from Agra to Etawah in Uttar Pradesh which will cost of Rs1·1bn.
Biggest of the conversion schemes are the 537 km from New Jalpaiguri in West Bengal to New Bongaigaon in Assam, which will cost Rs5·4bn, and the Virudunagar - Quilon and Tenkasi - Tiruchchendur lines in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, at a cost of Rs3·5bn.
- Indian Railways has allocated Rs1bn for creating a new divisional headquarters in Bilaspur, Madhya Pradesh; this is intended to improve the management of the substantial volumes of rail freight traffic generated by mining and industrial activity in the area.