Pilgrims to Vaishno Devi shrine will be able to travel directly to Katra base camp when the Udhampur-Katra rail line becomes operational next year.
While the Katra station is almost ready, work on the Udhampur-Katra line is underway and expected to be commissioned by December 2012, a senior Northern Railway official, involved with the project, said.
The 53-km long Jammu-Udhampur rail line is already operational. Once the 25-km-long Udhampur-Katra line, part of the Kashmir rail link project, is operational then trains can come directly to Katra from anywhere, he said.
Katra town in Reasi is the base camp for pilgrims to Vaishno Devi shrine where an estimated 10 million devotees pay obeisance every year.
The Udhampur-Katra rail route, estimated to cost Rs 960 crore, passes through inhospitable terrain making it an extremely challenging engineering project.
The official said the 25-km-long route consists of seven tunnels and about 30 small and big bridges including a bridge taller than the Qutub Minar. "The total length of seven tunnels is 12 km on the Udhampur-Katra rail route. While construction of five tunnels is completed, work is going on in two tunnels - T1 and T3.