Railway network need of the hour, says Dhumal

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Shimla, Feb 11 (UNI) Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal today stressed the need for developing a strong railway network in the hill state following the construction of a railway line between western Tibet and Lhasa by the Chinese authorities.

''The expansion of the railway network in Himachal was not just the state's need, but was also in the interest of the country given the security threat the Tibet railway track poses,'' he told reporters here.

Mr Dhumal also expressed regret at the Centre's decision to turn down a project proposal for changing the narrow guage Panthakot-Jogindernagar to broad gauge.

However, he added that a rail track from Bhanupali to Bilaspur would ease the road traffic burden, which was likely to increase since many cement plants were located in the state's central zone.

The state government has made a case for extending the rail line from Chandigarh to Baddi and sought Shatabadi connectivity for Una, which was the only broad gauge rail station in the state, he said.

The Chief Minister said his government was considering a proposal for the need of a winter capital, which the Congress opposed while in power but was now endorsing the same.

The state government was in for a winter move from February 15 to 25 in which the districts Kangra, Chamba, Una and Hamirpur would be toured and peoples' issues addressed, he added.

Mr Dhumal also raised the demand for securing possession of Annadale Ground from the Army in the state capital, which, he said, was a state property. The army commanders had committed to hand it over in a meeting a few years ago, he said.

Referring to the Special Economic Zone (SEZ), he said the government would welcome investments but would not allow use of agricultural land for the purpose as the state was deficient in agricultural land.

UNI XC AS JN AM KN2033

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