Bengaluru, Jan 29: Railway Minister Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu on Thursday flagged off a premium train here connecting India's tech hub to Katra town, 13km from Mata Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu and Kashmir.
Though Prabhu's predecessor D.V. Sadananda Gowda announced the weekly express in this fiscal (2014-15) railway budget in July last year, pressure from devotees of the Hindu goddess Durga made the mandarins hurry up with the new train which will cover 3,246km in 56 hours and 40 minutes.
"We had to work out the logistics and schedule for the special inaugural train in the busy time table, connecting south and north, which makes the trip longest from here to north India," a South Western Railway (SWR) official told IANS on the occasion.
Though Prabhu also flagged off three other weekly premium trains to Kamakhya in Assam, Patna in Bihar and Tatanagar in Jharkhand, the superfast pilgrim train (# 22679/22680) to Katra will run every Saturday at 11:30am from Feb 7 and will depart from Yesvantpur junction in the city's northern suburb.
"It's a great relief for us, especially senior citizens, to have a direct train to Katra on the foothills of the Mata Devi shrine. Though the travel is tedious and over two days, we don't have to alight in Delhi or board another train en-route or bus from Jammu for the pilgrimage," S. Gopalacharya, 64, a retired lecturer, told IANS.
With 19 coaches and a pantry car, the train to Katra atop Tirkuta Hills at 5,300 feet in the Jammu region, will have 10 halts, chugging through seven-eight states enroute.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Katra station on July 14 last year for regular traffic, connecting it to the national rail network via Jammu station, 50km away from it in the mountain region.
The three other express trains which will run under the premium service will connect the city directly with the eastern and northeastern regions for thousands of people, especially college students from Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Assam with dynamic fares.
The Bengaluru-Patna train (#22353/22354) will run every Sunday from Cantonment station in the city centre at 3:30pm, while the Bengaluru-Kamakhya express (# 22503/22504) will start from Cantonment every Friday at 10:15am and the Bengaluru-Tatanagar train (#18111/18112) will depart from Yesvantpur every Sunday at 10am.
Prabhu also laid the foundation stone for a foot overbridge at the city's main station.
Union Ministers M. Venkaiah Naidu, Sadananda Gowda, Ananth Kumar, parliamentary and state assembly lawmakers and local body corporators from across the city were present on the occasion.