Plans for constructing the strategic, Bilaspur-Manali-Leh railway line inched forward with the Union Railway Ministry seeking the Planning Commission's approval for the proposed, 498-km, all-weather broad gauge line, estimated to cost Rs.22,831 crore.
According to Prem Kumar Dhumal, the chief minister of Himachal Pradesh, the feasibility study for the project has been completed and the railway ministry has forwarded the proposal to the Planning Commission.
The Himachal Pradesh government has been pushing for the crucial rail link from Bilaspur to Leh in Ladakh, one of the largest districts of India, located in Jammu & Kashmir. The Prime Minister's Office had given an in-principle approval to the state's proposal for the railway line to Leh via the Rohtang Pass.
The China Study Group (CSG), which comprises key officials including the foreign, defence and home secretaries, besides the heads of the Intelligence Bureau and the Research & Analysis Wing (RAW), have also been asked to examine the state government's proposal.
Himachal Pradesh is keen on the new rail link to keep pace with development across the border; China has been aggressively developing rail links to Tibet, and its capital, Lhasa, is now linked to Golmud, about 1,200 km away, along the most challenging stretch of the Quingzang Railway.
The Indian Army too is keen on developing this strategic railway link, as it will provide a vital alternative route for it to carry combat equipment in case of an emergency. The army wants an all-weather rail link right up to the Chinese border.