India’s minister of railways Suresh Prabhu has initiated the final surveys before construction of the Bilaspur–Mandi–Leh line can begin.
Once it is operational, the 498km broad gauge line will be the highest track in the world according to the ministry of railways.
Starting in Bilaspur, the line will pass through Mandi, Kullu, Manali and Keylong and terminate in Leh, a town in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kasmir state.
Leh is situated in the Himalayan mountain range, is the second largest district in the country and attracts a high footfall of domestic and international visitors each year, according to the ministry.
The highest point on the Bilaspur–Mandi–Leh line is understood to be 5,300m above sea level and – because of the terrain – the ministry predicts the need to build a number of tunnels, viaducts and bridges.
The area suffers from extreme winter and summer weather conditions and as a result an all-weather rail line is needed.
The final location survey is being completed by engineering firm RITES in a contract that is worth 157 crore rupees (around €2.1 million) and is expected to be complete by 2019.
In a statement the ministry of railways said: “Construction of the railway line in such difficult and treacherous terrain would be a daunting challenge for Indian Railways and would be an unmatched marvel globally once completed.”
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