After announcing highway connectivity for four Hindu religious shrines (Char Dham) in Uttarakhand, the Narendra Modi government now proposes to build an expressway between New Delhi and Katra, the base for pilgrims going to the holy shrine of Vaishno Devi in Jammu & Kashmir.
The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways is working on a plan to build the 600 km expressway, which would be India's longest. The expressway would pass through Haryana, Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir and would cost more than Rs 15,000 crore. "A consultant to study the feasibility of the project is being appointed. It will significantly improve connectivity between Delhi and Srinagar as a national highway is already being built between Jammu and Srinagar," a senior government official said. Road transport & highways minister Nitin Gadkari confirmed to ET that his ministry was working on the plan.
Katra, which is at an elevation of 875 metres above sea level, is located 42 km from Jammu.The expressway will reduce road travel time between New Delhi and Katra to five-six hours from 11-12 hours. The project is likely to be built on a hybrid annuity model, under which 40% of the cost will be borne by the government. The government has approved plans for the construction of about 1,000 km of expressways at an estimated cost of Rs 16,680 crore. The approved corridors are Delhi-Chandigarh, Bengaluru-Chennai, Delhi-Jaipur, Delhi-Meerut, Kolkata-Dhanbad, Delhi-Agra and Vadodara-Mumbai. "It could be a high-traction project as the traffic flow, both private vehicles and freight, is good on the route," the official added.
The central government will hold meetings with the state governments of Punjab, Haryana and Jammu & Kashmir to discuss the alignment of the proposed expressway and which towns will be provided connectivity. "Since the BJP-led NDA is in power in all three states, land for the project should not be a problem for the government," the official added. The government is already working on a land pooling policy for expressway projects, where a portion of the land acquired from farmers will be returned to them after development.