The gleam in the Himachali politicians eyes have have started grow a little more intense : a definite proposal for a Manali-Leh train has been kicked to national level by the Railway Ministry.
Details are still scarce , but the cited distance for Bilaspur-Manali-Leh , 489 kilometers , is nearly identical to the present Manali-Leh road. This should mean that they are aiming for westerly shortcut from Darcha , same as being underway for the Manali-Leh highway.
Some question marks : the Rothang tunnel work that has started is a dual lane road only , no data on if it has been planned with a third railway track in mind. The sale pitch is that this will be an all year round open route once the Rothang has been bypassed : some Ladakhi politicians have been less convinced that this will work out , and have pushed for a a route over Tso Moriri ( ouch ! ) to Spiti and the NH 22/ Hindustan-Tibet road as a more practical solution.
Indias border policy has involved a certain conscious under-development of roads and railways , with the idea that poor roads slowing down the enemy would be a strategic asset : Spiti at least should perhaps be seen as a resounding success in this strategy…
The current road and railway work in Tibet and adjoining areas ( railway to Lhasa , construction/planning of tracks to Shigatse and Nyingtri , highways to Yadong and work on re-opening the Stillwell /Ledo / road thru Burma) has been used a lot over the last years as arguments for abandoning this policy.
Meanwhile , in practical terms : expect very little change in the coming years. We are still waiting for the completion of the railway to Srinagar , soon a decade over the schedule , and there is still no formal decision or any money allocated in this years railway budget.