USBRL KASHMIR RAIL LINK PROJECT 2002-2020 – The Gap in the missing Link Katra – Banihal;

By Dr. F.A. Wingler, June 2020 with UPDATE November 2021

With the partition of 1947 India has lost the direct access to the Kashmir Region.

1994, the Railway Minister declared the need for a rail line to Baramulla, well beyond even Srinagar.

This Jammu–Baramulla Railway Line had been planned to connect the Kashmir Valley in the Indian union territory of Jammu and Kashmir with Jammu railway station and hence to the rest of India`s rail grid. The 356 km rail route, once fully completed, will start from Jammu and will end at Baramulla in the Kashmir Valley.

The Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link (USBRL) is the biggest project undertaken by the Indian Railways in the Himalayan Region since Independence. In 2002 it had been declared as a national project, funded entirely by the Central Government. The Government also stated that an unbroken rail link is imperative.

In 2005, the 53 km long Jammu-Udhampur section finally opened, 21 years after its beginning. The line, which cuts through the Shivalik Hills, has 20 major tunnels and 158 bridges. Its longest tunnel is 2.5 km in length and its highest bridge is 77 m (253 ft).

The isolated 119 km Kashmir Valley Railway became completely operational in October 2009. It connects Baramulla in the western part of the valley via Srinagar to Qazigund at the other end.

In June 2013, the rail service commenced through the longest Indian Railway Tunnel of that time, the Pir Panjal Summit Tunnel at 1670 m above sea level between Banihal and Quazigund. The 8.4 m wide tunnel is also of military strategic importance, since it can be used as military road for army vehicles when needed in a military conflict.

In July 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off the much-awaited 25 km Udhampur Katra train service, that will benefit millions of devotees, who visit the Vaishno Devi Shrine every year. The devotees will directly be able to travel to Katra in 8 hours by a luxury semi-high speed train to reach the base camp of the Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine.

Katra-Banihal is the only missing link between Jammu and Baramulla, which passes through the Reasi District, the most challenging stretch of geologically unstable and unpredictable terrain with poor infrastructure and access besides the harshest and steepest Himalayan faces.

On this challenging route, two deep river gorges have to be crossed in an earthquake prone zone:

  • With the Anji Khat Bridge at a height of 189 m above the river and with an arch span of 265 m
  • and with the Chenab River Bridge at a height of 359 m above the river and with an arch span of 467 m and with an overall length of 1.3 km.

The present alignment of the route from Udhampur via Katra to Quazigund goes back to a survey of Mr. J.S. Mundrey and his company “Consultants Combine Private Limited” in the years between 1994 and 1996; see J.S. Mundery (Rail Consult India) et Navin Chandra: “A TOUGH ROUTE CHOICE PROVEN RIGHT”, RAIL BUSINESS Vol. 10, January 2019. RITES had proposed a shorter direct route from Udhampur to Banihal, however with steeper ruling gradients of 1 in 40 and tight curvatures up to 6 Degree. J.S. Mundrey, who had personal experience in building the scenic mountainous Visakhapatnam  – Koraput Line, opted for a more easy to operate railroad via Katra with curvatures not tighter than 2.75 Degree and ruling gradients not steeper than 1 in 100.

111 km of the Katra – Banihal rail track will have to pass 27 tunnels of a summarised length of 97 km, the longest becoming the Sumber Tunnel T-49 with 12.75 km, longer than the 11.21 km long Pir Panjal summit tunnel between Banihal and Quazigund.

Once it had been envisaged to open the Katra- Banihal section in August 2007. The difficulties and imponderability’s to carve a railroad through this hostile terrain under Indian specific conditions had been underestimated and own strength overestimated.

Between Dream and Reality there had and there is still a big gap. There is also the almost insurmountable gap 359 m above the Chenab River between the two bridge steel arch elements, which are since November 2017 in limbo. There had been also a hurdle about the Anji Khat Bridge. It had been decided recently to bridge the gorge by a cable stayed suspension bridge, the first kind of this in India.

The worksite of the Chenab River Bridge is in a remote area with only poor road access, without infrastructure, electricity and water, and in a seismological fragile zone. Since no longer steel elements than 12 m can be transported over the poor supply roads – the rail link to Katra is not ready since there is still no bridge over the Anji Khat gorge – , the steel girder, box and desk bridge elements have to be engineered at site in 4 workshops.

Legal cases, strikes and financial disputes between the main contractor Konkan Railway Corporation (KRCL) and the bridge engineering formed CBPU with AFCONS, and now the COVID-19 crisis, have prevented, that this steel arch bridge, to be screwed together with high tension bolts out of shorter elements free pending over the gorge, could be assembled in a continuous and uninterrupted workflow. The Stop-And-Go procedure is deadly for such engineering.

The longer chosen alignment route for less steeper ruling gradients via Katra and through the Reasi District has now to be threaded through this Chenab River Bridge needle eye.

The Chenab River Bridge should become a marvel and landmark in India comparable with the Gustave Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. Not only there is a height relation, there is also a structural steel design and engineering relation with Gustave Eiffel of the 19th century, who engineered in 1882 – 1886 the steel arch Garabit Railway Bridge in the Massif Central of France, an earthquake prone zone. This bridge has become the grandmother of many steel arch deck bridges around the globe.

As Mr. J.S. Mundrey reports in his book BULLOK CART TO BULLET TRAIN, Chapter 27, Mr. Birdsall of the well known Bridge Design Consultants “Steinman Boynton Gronquist & Birdsall” suggested for the Chenab River gorge a fixed Steel Arch Bridge; similar to the 1977 constructed New River Gorge Bridge, West Virginia, Appalachian Mountains, USA, latter with a Central Arch Span of 518 m, which also goes back to the structural steel elements of the Gustave Eiffel 1884 Garabit Railway Bridge in France. The German Bridge Engineering Consultant LEONHARDT, ANDRÄ and PARTNER had prepared the structural engineering design for the Chenab River Bridge.

The whole ambitious project of national importance, to link Kashmir by Rail to the Indian continent over the longer Katra-Reasi route, will stand or fall with the successful closure of the Chenab River Gorge Bridge Gap.

Update 2021: On April 04th 2021 the last segment could be launched to close the arch of the Chenab Bridge. After the arch closure the supporting cables could be removed and the concreting of the 8 m long chambers of the arch started.  The Chenab Bridge will achieve its final stability only after constructing the deck-girder, which is still a challenging task and will need under the prevailing conditions its time.

                                     Launching the last Closure Segment of the Arch on April 04th 2021

                                                Concreting of the Arch Chambers; September 2021

Further valuable technical information the reader will find in the excellent publication series: HIM PRABHAT, USBRL Technical News Magazine, Issues V-XII, of Northern Railway Construction Organization, CAO-USBRL. Several images, if not other mentioned, are taken from the HIM PRABHAT issues.

The publications testify the enormous personal efforts of everyone involved.

To learn more, download the PDF file: USBRL KASHMIR RAIL LINK PROJECT 2002-2020 revised


The technical paper deals with the two principal categories of ELASTIC Rail FASTENING or RAIL FIXATION SYSTEMS, which we find on railways around the globe:

  1. Bolted or screwed Clamp Systems, where the Clamping or Down-Hold Force is generated by tensioning a Clamp through applying a torque on a quenching screw bolt; so-called “Threaded Clamp Systems”.
  2. Screw-less self-tensioning driven Clip Systems, where the described Clamping or Down-Hold Force is generated by Deflection, when the Clip gets deflected through driving it in a cast-in shoulder, housing or anchor insert; so-called “Screw-less Non-Threaded Self-tensioning Clip Systems”.

To the Group A belong the French RN and Nabla Fastening, the Japanese Shinkansen 120 Fastening (Kowa) and Spring-Steel-Leaf Fastening, the Pandrol SD Fastening, and the German evolution of the Epsilon shaped Tension Clamps from Vossloh developed at the Technical University of Munich under Prof. Hermann Meier (HM Clamps; Germany), produced by Vossloh, Schwihag (Germany Switzerland, USA), Voest Alpine (Austria), Pandrol, Agico (China) and by some other Chinese Rail fastener suppliers, and some Steel-Spring Leaf Fasteners developed in the former UDSSR.

To the Group B belong the Brands of the Pandrol PR and “e” Series Clips, the Fast-Clips, the Indian RDSO Pandrol modifications of the Mark I to VI Series Clips and Logwell G Clips, the Deenik Style long range Clips trading with a wider deflection range (developed in the 1950-tees in Netherlands) under the Brands “SAFELOK”, further developed my Ralph McKay, (Austria) – now Pandrol, Voest Alpine and Progress Rail –  and the Ukraine KPP 5 Clip/Vossloh SB V 4 VK Fastening.

In answer to reports on fractures of SKl 15 Tension clamp fastenings on monolithic Rheda 2000 non-ballasted tracks, Vossloh has modified the spatial bend of its SKl 15 Clamp. The new SKL 15 HF tension clamp has a significantly higher natural frequency, which means that it has an increased vertical fatigue limit.

Worldwide the Pandrol Fast-Clip is superseding the self-tensioning Pandrol PR and “e” Series Clips on ballasted tracks.  On non-ballasted tracks for High-Speed Rail the screw-tensioned SKl Clamps dominate over the self-tensioning Clips.

To learn more about the spectrum of advanced rail-fastenings, download the PDF:Quo Vadis

Road embedded Rail Tracks for City Tram, Light Rail Transit and Metro-Lite

The origin for LIGHT RAIL TRANSIT or “METRO-LITE” is based on electric City Trams,

that started worldwide at the end of the last but one century. Light Rail Transit is becoming a further mainstay for urban and suburban public transport in India under the term “METRO-LITE” . In India, we find a City Tram relic of the last century in Kolkata:

LIGHT RAIL TRANSITS, LRT, including City Trams, experience worldwide a renaissance. LRT is currently the fastest-growing passenger rail mode, employing a full range of technologies and operational practices. Around the globe, light rail systems, or LRT, have become increasingly popular in recent years due to their lower capital costs and increased reliability compared with heavy rail systems.

In Central European countries, LRT/city trams remained operating since hundred years uninterrupted as the backbone for urban, suburban interurban and regional public transport.

Be it the tram in the classical sense or the suburban and interurban railways, which combine features of underground railways and trams, the global future of urban transport is on the rail with Light Rail Transits. While the construction and running of underground or elevated systems incur huge costs, tram and light rail transit systems can be constructed and integrated into the city-scape at a comparatively lower cost.

The Light Rail Systems can share their ways with road traffic, blending in the surrounding road surface, and as well use their own dedicated tracks on reserved corridors.

The conventional way of track laying had been to lay the rail grids with gauge distance bars bolted to the web without support of cross-ties (sleepers) direct on a aligned and resilient planum, consisting of compacted gravel, metal, bitumen, asphalt, cement, mortar or concrete, or nowadays on elastic noise and vibration attenuation mats. Normally, height adjustment of such tracks takes place by insertion of wedges, and by pouring compounds under the track panel.

In modern ground borne noise vibration mitigating and electric stray current insulating systems the polymer encapsulated rails are laid in prefabricated concrete grooves. In some towns the rails are fixed on sleepers embedded in ballast-less track structures.

To learn more, download PDF:Road embedded Rail Tracks for City Tram, Light Rail Transit and Metro-Lite

Ribbed Base-Plate Rail Fastenings in Pictures By F.A. Wingler, March 2001

The bearing ribbed base-plate for rail fastenings had been designed in Germany by the engineer Döhlert and introduced on German Railway in 1926. It is the most successful base-plate for indirect rail fastenings on wooden-, steel-, concrete-, composite-, polymer sleepers and ballast-less slab tracks around the globe. The KPO fastening from 1926 on wooden sleepers superseded the direct and indirect dog-, cut- and screw-spike fastenings and had become the conventional rail-fastening in most Central and East European countries, in Central Asia and as well in Turkey for wooden sleepers. Together with an epsilon shaped elastic tension clamp, SKl (“Spann Klemme”, patented 1967 by the German Engineer Professor Hermann Meier at the TU Munich and manufactured for the world market by Vossloh, Germany) it entered also India as a standard elastic fastening for Metro Rail on concrete plinth tracks and for modern turnouts.

Indirect elastic SKl Rail Fastening of Bangalore Metro with canted Ribbed Base-Plate on Plinth Track; System Vossloh

To learn more, download the PDF: RIBBED BASE PLATE RAIL FASTENINGS 20. 03. 21

Advanced Rail Fastenings in India By Dr. F. A. Wingler, February 2021

With advanced Turnouts, Metro Rail, Ballast-less Rail Tracks, Regional Rapid Transits and High-Speed Line new impetus has been given to the Indian rail fasting market and applications. The spectrum of advanced rail fastening assemblies has become wider.

The promotion of indigenous manufacture of advanced rail fastening components under “Make in India” will give an impetus to the Aatmanirbhar Bharat Initiative under the self reliant Indian campaign making better use of the domestic economy and industries.

To know more about advanced Rail Fastenings download the PDF:Advanced Rail Fastenings 2

Characterisation of self-tensioning elastic Rail Clips, ERC, of PANDROL Type By F. A. Wingler, February 2021

Rail Fastening on concrete sleepers with the RDSO designed MARK III Elastic Rail Clip, ERC, has become standard in India.

The self-tensioning or self-stressing elastic Pandrol-type rail clips are manufactured by giving a spatial bend to Silicon-Manganese alloy spring-steel rods. Their advantage is the simple installation parallel to the rail. The ERCs are pushed with their leg from right to left parallel to the rail into the tunnel/housing of the shoulder plate/insert with the help of a standard hammer or a puller device. When inserted the clip deflects and develops a clamping force fixing the rail foot:

The rod-end structural element, which is pushed into the tunnel/housing of the shoulder plate, is called “CENTRE LEG”. The other structural rod-end element is called “TOE”. The “HEEL” is the middle structural element between the “FRONT ARCH” and the “REAR ARCH”.

The rail clip panted in 1957 was invented by Per Pande-Rolfsen, an employee of the Norwegian State Railway, and the person from whom the Pandrol clip draws its name.

Worldwide there are two types of self-tensioning Pandrol Clips in use:

  1. The original PR Clip with an anti-clock-wise bended geometry, shaped as the letter “e” and
  2. The e-Series Clip with a clock-wise bended geometry, shaped as the letter “G”.

For more information download the PDF:Classification of ERC`s

The World of Urban Transport; a Picture Kaleidoscope – From the Once-Upon-a-Time Bullock-Sulky to the modern Low-Speed Urban and Regional Maglev Transit By F.A. Wingler, January 2021

The Journey of the Transit Kaleidoscope begins in India with a once–upon-a-time privileged Bullock-Sulky personal Transport and ends in Germany and China with the Max Bögl Low-Speed Maglev for Urban Transport.


Flash-Butt welded Long Rolled Rails, LRR, of Prime Steel Quality help to lower the Risk of fatal Train Accidents in India By F.A.Wingler, January 2021

Long Rolled Rails, LRR, of prime steel quality, already tested in the manufacturing plant, and with Flash-Butt Welds of higher strength than that of Alumino Thermic, AT, welds, provide far better alignment and continuity parameters with less alignment perturbations for far smoother train runs with less dynamic response of rail vehicles, that lower the risk of in-service rail failures, which had led in past decades to nasty, unwanted and fatal train derailment accidents in India. The mutual impacts of rail and running wheel governed by Newton`s Laws of Motion ( = dynamic response) are on tracks consisting of  flash-butt welded long rolled rail panels far lower than on tracks consisting of AT welded short 13 m rails.

The recent Indian evolution of indigenous manufacture of Flash-Butt Welded Long Rolled Rails of prime Steel Quality is a MAJOR ACHIEVEMENT for INR of the last decade on the way to avoid nasty, unwanted and fatal train accidents and to extend the service life of rails in track and that of the other track components resulting in lower overall Life Cycle Costs.

Long rolled and flash-butt welded rails are a prerequisite for 160 kmph Semi-High Speed Lines in India.

To learn more, download PDF:



Metro/Tram-Trains are Multi-Talents or Chameleons, that operate locally on the City Rail Networks and as well inter-regional or between cities on Main-Line Railway networks, bringing commuters from one City Center to the next City Center without changing the transport mode. Metro/Tram-Trains operate seamless with one-and-the-same Rail Vehicle on Lines of Metros, Subways, Street Cars, Street Trams, suburban Commuter Rail, Intercity Regional Rapid Transits and Main Line Railways. The system should be unigaue, otherwise dual-gauge or gauntlet tracks are needed. Metro/Tram-Trains  combine Urban Rail with Regional Rail Transport.

The most advanced modern Tram-Train system in the world operates currently in the Karlsruhe Region, Germany, on a rail network of 533 km, using 354 km railway lines together with the infrastructures of the German Federal Railway. Further modern Tram-Train Networks can be found in the regions of Cologne, Bonn, Saarbrücken, Stuttgart (Neckar-Alb), Chemnitz, Nordhorn in Germany, Cadiz in Spain, Mulhouse and  Nantes in France, Linz and Salzburg in Austria, Copenhagen in Denmark and Szeged in Hungary. Cases for combined Metro and Railway systems in India are the Nagpur and Dehradun-Rishikesh-Haridwar Regions.

Modern Thyristor Technology enables nowadays the seamless operation under different electric feeding systems: 650/750/1000 V DC, 15 kV, 16 2/3 Hz AC and 25 kV, 50 Hz AC.

For a combined and intermodal City-Tram/Metro and Regional Railway operation the track gauge should be the same, either both systems in Meter Gauge, Standard Gauge or Broad Gauge.

With the introduction of Metro Rail and High-Speed Rail operating on Standard Gauge, India had to leave its Unigauge Strategy with Broad-Gauge only. The history and dilemma of Indian Broad Gauge is discussed in the PDF below,  for free download COMBINED TRAM METRO TRAIN AND RAILWAY TRAINS


Matheran, a Hill-Station in India, Maharashtra, is the only location in India, where no tar roads and no motorized vehicles are allowed. The only road access from NERAL at a height of 39.3 m above sea level on the East-Side ends at a height of 758 m and 2 km outside the town of Matheran at DASTURI. All materials, goods and delivery products have to be transhipped from arriving lorries and good carriers on hand pulled carts or pack horses and carried over a cart-road with steep gradients to Matheran Market at a height of 804 m above sea level. The cart road passes a hill-slip prone zone near Beatrice Cliff. During the heavy rainfalls of the 2005 monsoon, this “only supply route” got blocked by mud-, earth-, rock- slips and hill-slides.

The narrow gauge Toy Train from Neral to Matheran proofed to be not all-year-round reliable. Since 2005 the railway had to be closed down several times for month-long repairs and reconstructions after severe damages inflicted by heavy monsoon rainfalls.

The idea had been borne to look for alternative, more monsoon proof transport routes.

An Aerial Ropeway from the East-Side over the Garbut Rim proved to become uneconomical and heavily inflicting with the ecological sensitive declared zone of Matheran.

In 2009, it was during the tenure of the Matheran business tycoon Mr. Manoj Khedkar as the president of Matheran Municipal Council, that the idea of a Funicular Railway on the West Matheran Side along the slopes of the ravine between Porcupine Point and Maldunga Point from Dhodani to Malet Spring Point together with a feasibility report had been floated:

The technical paper reveals, that an about 2.5 km long  Funicular Railway on the West-Side of Matheran from a difficult to reach bottom station at the village Dodhani to an upper station in the forest near Malet Spring, about 1 mile outside of Matheran, will become extraordinary capital investment intensive  and highly inflicting with the nature preservation activities. A similar uncompleted project near Kalyan is in limbo, and the uncompleted steel trajectory/guideway is left to heavy corrosion, with no chance to be ever completed due to unsolved safety aspects. The chosen elevated trajectory is not safe against possible derailments.

After refurbishing the Neral-Dasturi tar-road, this “only road” is now in a quite good condition. However, some selected sections have to be further secured against Rock-Falls and Hill-Slides by state-of-the-art Rock-Fall  and Slope Stabilisation technologies.

The Car-Park at Dasturi got a pavement with interlocking cement stone blocks. It is said that the Taxi-Stand, Transhipment-Area and Horse-Stand will soon be also paved.

The visitor entrance from the toll boot up to the hand-cart/rickshaw stand has been dressed up with a new look.

Further programmes for the beautification of the infrastructure for visitors, tourists, customers and guests are in progress hoping that in the post corona period they will flock in as before.

The stony and dilapidated Dasturi-Matheran Cart-Road is currently under reconstruction and will get a smooth surface with brick paver blocks over a full 5 km length up tp Pandey Play Ground. Over lowering-spots, the alignment of the cart-road gets flattened by lifting on gabions and culverts of up to 2.5 m height. However, the steep gradient/incline at the hair-pin curvature before Wayside Inn will remain an unsolved obstacle. To lower the ruling gradient, the road has to be elongated by a new trace through the protected forest. But will be not allowed under the conservation rules.

In order to achieve an all-year-round reliable and stable route, the next step must be to prevent the section near Beatrice Cliff to slip further down. This could be done by a comprehensive surface-water management with a network of catch-drains. Gabions cannot stop hill-slides.

Once the cost effective East-Side transport route from Neral will become all-year-round safe operational and resistant against the impacts of heavy monsoon periods on the way to come, there will be no need any more for high capital investment alternatives.

To learn more, download the PDF:FUNICULAR MATHERAN