Bilaspur-Manali-Leh – Why The Highest Rail Line In The World Is So Important To India?

The Indian Railways have been an exemplary transport system for decades in the country. Connecting big cities to tiny villages, they have managed to make travel seamless and comfortable. While there are several noteworthy rail lines in India, the one from Bilaspur to Manali to Leh remains one of the most massive undertakings which the world is waiting for.

leh photo
On the way to the Namka La by Fulvio Spada under CC BY-SA 2.0


Himachal Pradesh has been one of the most popular tourist destinations in India. We have spoken about its many attractions on our website for interested tourists and travelers. Himachal is also a vital point of connectivity to inaccessible areas such as Leh and Ladakh. Due to their geographical and national importance, Leh and Ladakh remain a crucial asset to India and the national Government. Keeping this in mind, the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh has been urging the Indian Government to provide better transport connectivity. Connecting Bilaspur by rail to Leh would help tourists, travelers, foreign visitors, military forces and officials. Passing through vital stations such as Manali, Mandi etc would allow tourists to roam easily through the state. It would also aid tourism and develop sectors such as hospitality, food, entertainment and retail. Ladakh and Leh hold a precarious position on the Indo-China border. This rail line would mean Indian forces can reach the border in little to no time in cases of emergency.

Leh remains a tourist and beauty paradise for the summer months. Despite the harsh conditions and inaccessibility, tourists and travelers make their way to the valley. With the creation of this rail line Bilaspur, Manali and Leh would be directly connected to the rest of India by railways. A dream that seemed impossible a few years ago, it is now almost real. Touted to be the highest rail line in the world, this rail line is supposed to overtake China’s Qinghai-Tibet railway for that honor. Once fully operational and working, it would be running at a massive height of three thousand three hundred meters! Part of a mega rail project approved by the Indian Government, the Ministry of Defense will also bear costs as the routes are aimed at strengthening our borders. The other 3 Railway lines being built to boost India’s defense against China include:

  • Missamari-Tenga-Tawang
  • Pasighat-Tezu-Parsuram-Kund-Rupai
  • North Lakhimpur-Bame-Silapathar

China has long been working on strengthening its defense and fortifying borders by allowing massive troops ease of access and movement. They are ready at a moment’s notice for any minor or major skirmish.

indian railways photo
Track to the Indian Summer by [email protected] under CC BY-ND 2.0

Now that the national and military significance of this line is clear, it’s no surprise that the Indian Railways wants it to be a national project. If it becomes a national project then construction can start immediately and expenses will be borne by the Central Government. One of the most difficult projects undertaken by the Railways because of the terrain and area involved, it is estimated to cost INR 2 lakh crores and upwards. The Bilaspur-Manali-Leh railway line poses a challenge not only because of the location but also because of the extremely cold weather, tunnels and bridges required. According to a report, the line will include 74 tunnels, 124 major bridges, and 396 minor bridges. Construction is supposed to begin in phases and each phase will involve different parts of the rail line. There is a long way to go thanks to the red tape created by the bureaucracy and Government. The first phase between Upshi and Leh is rumored to begin immediately.

Advanced technology such as drones, digital elevation and photogrammetry are being tested for the first time on a project of this scale. The final and complete report is supposed to reach the Indian Government by 2020. But it will take another 5-10 years for the project to be completed. The citizens and defense members of Indian forces are waiting with bated breath for this shining jewel on the crown that is the Indian Railways.

Featured Photo – Moscow Railway by Dmitry Kalinin under CC BY 2.0

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