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Ludhiana rail link gets underway
By Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

SAS NAGAR, June 27 — One of the most prestigious railway projects in Punjab in the past 50 years — the Chandigarh-Ludhiana rail link providing a direct link from Chandigarh to all cities of the state besides the Jammu region — finally got underway today.

The Railway Minister, Mr Nitish Kumar, formally laid the foundation stone of a new railway station here as part of the massive Rs 248 crore project. It will entail the laying of a 112.09-km-long rail line, 23 bridges, three road over-bridges and 12 road underbridges besides 50 level-crossing gates, will have state-of-the-art signalling and communication systems. The totally electrified track will be able to handle trains running at a speed of 160 km per hour, the authorities said.

Between Ludhiana and Chandigarh the track will have six new stations — Madhpur, Samrala, Khamano, Morinda, Kharar and SAS Nagar. The last mentioned station is located on the land of Kambala village and the Chandigarh station is 11.2 km away from here.

Speaking at the function today, Mr Nitish Kumar, without committing a specific time-frame for finishing the project said: ''The project will not face any shortage of funds as work will be done on a priority basis.'' Next week the tenders inviting contractors for the work will be floated, he added. A portion of the diesel cess will be used to build bridges, the railways minister said while adding that Amritsar Express would stop at Khanna.

Besides this, the Centre had accepted all proposals of the Punjab Government connected with the construction of over and under bridges over roads to minimise the rate of accidents at level-crossings. The railways also planned to have a direct train between Amritsar and Darbhanga in Bihar, the minister said.

The Centre has also approved the laying of track between Tarn Taran and Goindwal and work on it will start soon , the minister said. One of the proposals under consideration of the ministry is to connect three important Sikh religious places — Patna Sahib, Nanded Sahib and Anandpur Sahib.

The train will be beneficial for pilgrims as it will cover all important Sikh holy places, Mr Nitish Kumar claimed while asking the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Prakash Singh Badal, and the SGPC authorities to hold meetings with the railway authorities to work out the modalities of the new train.

On Kargil, Mr Nitish Kumar just repeated the Prime Minister's statement by saying: ''We will not rest until the intruders are thrown out.'' But he added that soldiers from Punjab had a big role to play in Kargil.

Earlier, Mr Badal said the Chandigarh-Ludhiana rail link was more of a necessity than a demand that had been pending for more than three decades while successive Congress governments did nothing in this regard. The rule of the BJP is the first time that the Centre had given some major projects to Punjab while earlier nothing had been done.

The latest project will link the two industrial hubs of Ludhiana and SAS Nagar, and generate jobs. He stressed the need to have industries across Punjab as the state had reached at a saturation point as far as agriculture was concerned.

The Thein Dam is complete and the Prime Minister has been invited to fix a date for its inauguration, Mr Badal said. He hoped that the Rajasansi Airport at Amritsar, once upgraded, would help in the export of agriculture produce.

Among those present on the occasion were Mr Tota Singh, Mr Sewa Singh Sekhwan, Mr Sarwan Singh Phillaur and Mr Swarna Ram (all ministers of Punjab, Mr Balwinder Singh Bhunder, a Rajya Sabha member, and Mr Satya Pal Jain, a former MP from Chandigarh.

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