Mumbai, June 27: Union Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu on Tuesday laid the foundation stone for the Final Location Survey Of Bilaspur-Manali-Leh New Broad Gauge Line. Shri R.K. Kulshrestha General Manager, Northern Railway and other Senior Railway officials were present during the ceremony. The railway line is a part of the Indian Railways ongoing endeavour to connect ‘remote parts and challenging terrains of the hilly states (HP & J&K) where development is scarce’ by rail transport, a release on the ceremony said.

The Bilaspur-Mandi-Leh Rail Line will cover a total route length 498 Kms and will further boost the tourism that has constantly been on the rise in Leh, Ladakh. Underlining the significance of the railway line, the official release of the Ministry said, “The project is of both strategic and economic, development and tourism importance, with its unique distinction being the highest railway track in the world.”

Prabhu announced the start of the project on Twitter on Tuesday, saying, “In a historic development,laid the foundation stone for Final Location Survey work of Bilaspur-Manali-Leh New Rail Line today.” He further said that the project will ‘facilitate overall development of the region.’ The railway line will connect Mandi, Kullu, Manali, Keylong and other important towns of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, said the Minister on Twitter. “The Proposed alignment passes through the Shivalik, Great Himalayan and Zanskar Ranges, areas with wide variation in height (600m to 5300 m above MSL) and Seismic zone IV and V…, necessitating  building of large number of tunnels, deep viaducts and bridges”, said the release.

The estimated cost of the project is Rs 157 crores and is expected to be completed by March 2019. “In order to connect Leh with a broad gauge railway line with the rest of the country, Indian Railway have taken up Final Location Survey, a precursor to actual construction from Bilaspur to Leh via Manali”, said the release. Leh is the most important town in Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir and has a population of about 1.5 lakhs. Leh district is also the second largest district in the country and has an elaborate Army establishments. The headquarters of the 14 Corps is present in Leh.