One of the four crucial rail lines that the Indian Railways is building to fortify India’s border with China is the Bilaspur-Manali-Leh rail line. At the height of 3,000 mts, it would not only offer some of the most breathtaking views but would also be one of the highest in the world. The length of this rail line would be 498 km. The rest of the four strategic rail lines are Pasighat-Tezu-Parsuram Kund-Rupai that would stretch for 227 km, North Lakhimpur-Bame (Along)-Silapathar that’s for 249 km and Missamari-Tenga-Tawang that would be for 378 km. This expansion of the railway network towards the borders is to facilitate troop and armament movement towards the frontier at short notice.
The construction of all the four lines is expected to cost more than Rs 2-lakh crore. The final location survey (FLS) is in progress and the Indian Railways is expected to submit the report to the defence ministry by 2020.
This ambitious rail project was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security in December 2015. Initially a total length of 1,350 km was estimated, it will be reduced as the railway line to Tawang would be slashed to 170 km due to the use of tunnels from the earlier 378 km. The Tawang line would also have a tunnel of 30 km that is alone expected to cost Rs 50,000 crore.
“The proposed lines are in difficult terrain and challenging geological conditions given that the Himalayas are young and fragile mountains. Though the projects are very capital-intensive in nature, no traffic is expected on these routes,” said a government official, as mentioned in a report in Financial Express. That’s why it is the defence ministry and not the railways that will bear the cost of the project.
“After the surveys are over, the railways will make a cost estimate, for the defence ministry to provide the final go-ahead,” said the official. Of the Rs 350 crore that the survey is likely to cost, the defence ministry has already given Rs 150 crore for the project.