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

By Dr. F.A. Wingler, June 2020 with Update September 2022

ith 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 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 rail 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 Khad Bridge at a height of 189 m above the river and with an a 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. The almost insurmountable gap 359 m above the Chenab River between the two bridge steel arch elements got closed April 2021 and the deck closed August 2022.

The longer chosen alignment route for less steeper ruling gradients via Katra and through the Reasi District had to be threaded through the Chenab River Bridge and Anji Khad Bridge needle eyes.

There had been also a hurdle about the Anji Khad Bridge, which had delayed the the works. It had been decided only recently to bridge the gorge by a cable stayed suspension bridge, the first kind of this in India. The bridge will be supported by a single 193m tall reinforced concrete pylon, latter had been completed in January 2022. The two gorge slopes are geolocigally too instable to carry an arch bridge. The cantilevered assembly of the roadway elements by a Derick like crane is in progress. 96 cables have to get fixed. To complete the bridge will need about another two years.

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. No longer steel elements than 12 m could be transported over the poor supply roads, since the rail link to Katra had been not ready with the Anji Khad Gorge not bridged. The steel girder, box and desk bridge elements had 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 then 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 as originally planned for 2009.

The Chenab River Bridge has 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 in 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.

Update 2022: 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 concrete will give the arch additional stability. The Chenab Bridge will achieved its final stability after pushing the decks from both side ends over the arch construction. This could be successfully achieved on August 14th 2022 with the “Golden Joint Ceremony”.

Still there is a lot of work for the other major 37 bridges, 97.57 km main tunnels and 66.4 km of escape tunnels (no. of tunnels: 38), 7 railway stations, the track alignment (111km) and infrastructure. The recent successful closure over the Chenab Gorge has produced a certain amount of politically motivated euphoria and “bright weather reports” as if trains could run end of the year 2023 from Katra to Banihal. The scope and difficulties of the challenging works ahead tells us that at least another 3 years will be needed to close the railroad transport gap in the missing rail link to Kashmir.


Chenab Bridge, September 2022


Anji Khad Bridge, August 2022


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

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:


Demand for Attendance-free “fit-and-forget” Rail-Fastening on envisaged Indian Railway`s “Semi High-Speed” Routes – Pandrol Fast-Clip an advisable Solution

Indian Railways is fastening the Rails on Concrete Sleepers over its entire network with the so-called MARK III Elastic Rail Clip (ERC), which had been evolved with a modified spatial bend by RDSO from the left-handed Pandrol 401 Series with an anti-clockwise bend of the rod.

The MARK III ERC is far away from being “fit-and-forget”. Each and everywhere on the IR network one can detect loose or fallen off ERCs. Regular controlling by a patrolling key-man is needed to push back loose or fallen off Elastic Rail Clips into the tunnel of the shoulder plate/housing.

To increase the Speed of Passenger-Trains to 160 kmph on existing Routes is a long-term corporate objective in India based on policy initiative. The risk of patrolling key-men on duty increases over-linear with the train-speed. Rails on tracks envisaged for 160 kmph “Semi High-Speed” routes demand a “fit-and-forget” attendance-free Fastening System without the regular need of a patrolling key-man pushing back loose or fallen off Elastic Rail Clips (ERC).

Worldwide the Pandrol Fast-Clips are increasingly superseding the right-handed Pandrol Brand e-Clips resp. left-handed 400 Series Clips. This Fast-Clip takes a trumped around the globe especially in England, Germany, France, Poland, Sweden, Estonia, Georgia, Lithuania, Russia, Serbia, Hungary, Corsica, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Malaysia, Saudis, Australia, China and USA.

With Fast-Clips no patrolling key-man will be needed. This ERC is an advisable solution when it comes to a track renewal or upgrade for envisaged “Semi High-Speed” routes.


To read more download:


This technical paper is a revision of the Chapter 8 Draft of J.S. Mundrey for the forthcoming 5 th edition RAILWAY TRACK ENGINEERING with modifications and amendments by Dr. F.A. Wingler.

A Railway Track needs to be addressed in its entirety rather by only its individual constituents.

The technical paper deals in Part I with the Load Transfer in Track, with Ballast, Sub- Ballast Blanket Layer, Formation, Substructure and Drainage and delineates and  illustrates in Part II Track-, Hill &  Cutting Slope-Drainage- Systems.

Cuttings are injury to the nature and disturb the natural water-flow. And if not appropriately protected and secured, nature will take revenge with Hill-, Mud- or Rock-Slides. This can cause nasty railway accidents.

Ballast is the “Blood of the Rail Track” and Water is the “Enemy of the Rail Track”. Without a stable, well bearing and well drained Sub-Ballast, Formation, Sub-Grade and Sub-Soil  there will be no stable Rail Track.

Initial High Quality of all interactive Track-Constituents in their entirety result in low Deterioration Rates under given traffic load, and hence initial High Track Quality cuts overall Life Cycle Costs. Quality is no Luxury. Capital Investment in High Quality pays off over the Life Cycle.

To read more, download


RISK & HUMAN ERROR MANAGEMENT – The Nature of Latent unsafe Conditions and the Nature of Human Error A Guide to the Ultimate Goal to prevent Railway Accidents

Around the Globe technical Organisations with a high Risk Potential in Space Technology, Aviation, Nuclear Power Generation, Oil Exploration, Land and Maritime Transportation, Railways or Chemical Production have made in recent years remarkable improvements in their Safety Records by using the Doctrines and Methodologies developed by James Reason, UK.

The following treatises had been elaborated to help Sri Lanka Railways to find a path to more Safe Train Operation and to more Professionalism in Risk & Human Error Management and Accident Investigations.

Understanding the Human Factors and the Human Error producing Conditions is essential.
Download paper:Risk-Human-Error-Management – revidier

Normal Speed, Higher-Speed, Semi-High Speed and High-Speed in India

The question is if it will be prudent to invest capital in new dedicated HIGH-SPEED LINES for 200-300 kmph, which have to be built in Standard 1.435 m Gauge and not in Indian Broad Gauge, since worldwide no specific High Speed Train Technology had yet been developed for the Indian or Iberian Broad Gauge,

this is why Japan had to go for the new dedicated High-Speed Lines from Meter Gauge to Standard Gauge, and Spain had to go from their Iberian 1.677 m Broad Gauge to dedicated Standard Gauge High Speed tracks

or if it will be more advisable to use the conventional infrastructure by investing in special prepared conventional ballasted up speed-ed Broad Gauge Tracks for “SEMI-HIGH SPEED” up to max. 200 kmph, parallel to existing alignments, which could also be used by 110 kmph conventional coach trains.

Download paper