Indian Railways will play and an important role towards the development of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), Home Minister Amit Shah said, flagging off the Indian Railways’ Vande Bharat Express from New Delhi on Thursday.

“Vande Bharat train is a big step towards giving a boost to tourism in the state," Shah said.

The first commercial run New Delhi-Katra Vande Bharat Express will begin October 5. The train will cut down the travel time between Delhi and Katra—the last station on the way to Vaishno Devi Temple-- to eight hours from 12 hours now. The first New Delhi-Varanasi semi-high speed Vande Bharat Express, popularly known as Train 18 was launched by Modi earlier this year in February.

Shah said that the national transporter’s latest train will is part of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ vision. The train is an indigenous electric multiple unit (EMU) manufactured by the Chennai-based Integrated Coach Factory (ICF).

While the train is a fresh step towards connectivity taken by the Union government after the dilution of Article 370 in Kashmir, it buttresses the Centre's claim that the move -- which scrapped special status and bifurcated the region on 5 August -- was in keeping with the aim to reintegrate Kashmir with the rest of the country.

Shah has also previously reiterated that with the scraping of Kashmir's special status, the Centre would usher in rapid development into the region.

By way of a presidential order, the Parliament on 5 August, scrapped the special status under Article 370 and revoked Article 35A. At the same time, the Jammu and Kashmir reorganization Act was also passed by both Houses, bifurcating the erstwhile state into two Union territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.

“A Navratri gift for my sisters and brothers of Jammu as well as devotees of Maa Vaishno Devi! The New Vande Bharat Express from New Delhi to Maa Vaishno Devi, Katra will improve connectivity as well as spiritual tourism," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet.

The semi-high speed train that can run up to a maximum speed of 160 km/hour has electrically operated, automatic sliding doors similar to those in metro coaches. Built at a cost of 100 crore, each train has luxurious air-conditioned chair car service 16 compartments, with two first class coaches.

All the coaches of the engine-less Vande Bharat Express are connected with one another other, enabling easy passage for passengers. The train has vacuum toilets, hands-free taps, dryers, mobile charging points for every seat and 360-degree rotatable seats in the executive class coaches. Besides,

Shaswati Das contributed to the story

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