Bilaspur-Mandi-Manali-Leh line is a proposed high-elevation all-weather 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) broad gauge railway track that is planned to connect Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh to Leh in Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir state of India. It would link to the Indian railway network via an extension of the Kangra Valley Railway to Mandi, which would be converted to 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) broad gauge.
The total expected length of Bilaspur–Mandi–Leh line is 498 km (309 miles). It would become the highest railway track in the world, overtaking the current record of China's Qinghai–Tibet Railway. The Railway Budget 2011-2012 announced that the project would be taken up in the next year's budget. The next year's Railway Budget announced that the project was sent to the Planning Commission for appraisal. As of September 2016, Northern Railways has begun the process of acquiring land for setting up office in Leh.
Bilaspur-Mandi-Leh Line History
The Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh asked the Government of India to extend railway connectivity from Bilaspur to Leh through Mandi, Manali and Keylong. This would increase tourism in Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh and facilitate quicker movement of troops and equipment.
Following an examination of the feasibility report for the proposed Bilaspur–Mandi–Leh line, the Union Railway Ministry of India forwarded the recommendation to the Planning Commission of India for its approval. The survey for the project had been done and presently it is seeking approval of the planning commission of India and while railway minister assured about early clearance of this project.
Bilaspur-Mandi-Leh Line Strategic Importance
Once this railway line is completed, Leh will be directly connected to Himachal Pradesh and the rest of India by railway. The distance between Bilaspur and Leh will be about 500 km (310 mi). When the railway lines to Bilaspur and then to Leh are completed, the time taken to reach Leh from Delhi will be reduced to less than two days compared to about four days by the existing highway from Manali. Personnel and equipment will be transported more easily to Leh, a strategic military base. This is one of the four important railway connectivity along China border identified by the Defence Ministry.
Uncertainty Due to Paucity of Funds
The Bhanupalli (Punjab) to Bilaspur rail link is currently under construction but hardly any funds have been allocated and almost no progress was made as of 2013. There has been a demand to lay the railway line to Bilaspur from Kalka railhead instead of laying it from Bhanupalli. Therefore, the alignment and the fate of the proposed railway line to Leh is very uncertain. The railways are short of funds to the extent of more than four hundred billion rupees for the existing projects in hand as of 2013.
Indian Railways has estimated that the entire project is estimate to cost INR 22,318 Crore.
Bilaspur-Mandi-Leh Line Current Status
In December 2016, Government of India had 73 roads being constructed along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China and has identified 14 strategic border area railway line projects. The following four - will be taken up as the priority basis as the first phase: Bilaspur Manali-Leh (498 km) section of Pathankot-Leh strategic raillway along the Himachal-J&K border, Missamari-Tenga-Tawang (378 km) along Bhutan-Arunachal border, North Lakhimpur-Bame-Silapathar (249 km) along Assam-Arunachal border, and Murkongselek-Pasighat-Tezu-Rupai (227 km) along Assam-Arunachal border.
The 498 km Bilaspur-Manali-Leh rail project has been expedited and the Final Location Survey (FLS) for this has been undertaken at a cost of Rs 345 crore. The railway had requested the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Leh (LAHDC) to provide adequate land for setting up a camp office, and the required infrastructure. IN April 2017, Government said that the Final location Survey (FSL) for these will be completed by the October 2020.
In addition to the above 4 lines commenced in 2016, two more strategic lines were approved in May 2017 for construction: Dehradun-Uttarkashi and Rishikesh-Karnaprayag-Chamoli under religious tourism to connect Yamunotri, Gangotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath in Uttarakhand.
The remaining 8 strategic railway projects are: Patti-Ferozpur in Punjab, Jodhpur-Jaisalmer doubling of the existing line in Rajasthan, Tanakpur-Bageshwar in Uttarakhand. Jammu-Akhnoor-Poonch in K&K along line-of-control, Chattargarh-Hanumangargh-Motigarh-Anupgargh-Bikaner from Sirsa in Haryana to along Rajasthan border, Tanakpur-Jauljibi in Uttarakhand to China border, Jodhpur-Phulsund in Rajasthan, Srinagar-Kargil-Leh along line of control in J&K.
June 2017: Foundation stone laid for final location survey by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu.
Taglangla station at Taglang La is expected to become the highest railway station in the world at 5,359 m (17,582 ft) above the sea level overtaking the current record of Tanggula Railway Station in China at 5,086 m (16,686 ft).
The Most Challenging Railway Project on Indian Railways
After Jammu-Baramulla line, Bilaspur-Mandi-Leh line will be the most challenging railway project in Indian Railways due to high mountains, a large number of tunnels and high bridges and severe cold weather. According to the survey report, cost of construction of this 498 km (309 mi) long all weather broad gauge railway line has been calculated at Rs 22,831 crore with a negative rate of return of 4.46%. However, it is uncertain when the construction would start, if at all.
Bilaspur-Mandi-Manali-Leh Line Overview Detail
Bilaspur-Mandi-Manali-Leh Line Type: All-weather 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) broad gauge
Bilaspur-Mandi-Manali-Leh Line Status:
Survey – done
Feasibility Report – done
Submission to Planning Commission for appraisal – done
Approval by Planning Commission – yes
Land Acquisition – no
Construction – no
Bilaspur-Mandi-Manali-Leh Line Locale:
Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, India
Termini Bilaspur, Himachal Pradesh
Bilaspur-Mandi-Manali-Leh Line Services: Bilaspur-Mandi-Manali-Kullu-Keylong-Leh
Bilaspur-Mandi-Manali-Leh Line Line Length: 498 km (309 mi)
Bilaspur-Mandi-Manali-Leh Line Track Length: 498 km (309 mi)
Bilaspur-Mandi-Manali-Leh Line Track Gauge: 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in)
Bilaspur-Mandi-Manali-Leh Line Highest Elevation: 5'
Bilaspur-Mandi-Leh Line Route
To Joginder Nagar