Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi on 26 June 2013 flagged off first train which connects Banihal in Jammu with Qazigund in Kashmir. This train started off from Banihal Railway Station to Qazigund through the Pir Panchal mountain range.
The train, in the meanwhile, also chugged through the 11-kilometer Pir Panchal railway tunnel, which is the longest tunnel of India and is a part of 17.7 kilometer Qazigund-Banihal railway track.
The Prime Minister’s Reconstruction Program (PMRP)
• In the year 2005, Manmohan Singh had inaugurated the Jammu-Udhampur section of the rail link. In 2008 as well as 2009, the 119 kilometer Qazigund-Baramulla rail link was inaugurated. All these projects were a part of the Prime Minister’s Reconstruction Program (PMRP), which was announced in 2004. Out of 67 projects under PMRP, 37 have been completed.
• Apart from these projects, widening of the Khannabal-Pahalgam and Narbal-Tangmarg roads, upgradation of Srinagar airport to international standards, establishment of 14 new degree colleges, creation of 12 new Tourist Development Authorities in the State, modernisation of J&K police as well as establishment of 9 it is were also a part of PMRP.
• In order to address special needs of the state, projects worth 1000 crore Rupees were also undertaken.
Special features of Banihal- Qazigund rail link
• The Banihal- Qazigund rail link is the 18 km long rail link, which also includes the 11km long tunnel across Pir Panchal range. This is the longest tunnel of India and second longest tunnel of Asia.
• Banihal- Qazigund rail link will also link the already-operational 118-km-long route between Qazigund and Baramulla to rest of the parts in India.
• Inside the 11-km long tunnel, 3-metre wide road has been provided for maintenance as well as relief and rescue operations in case of emergency.
• The specialty of tunnel is that it is water-proof and equipped with latest air quality monitoring system, fire-fighting, communication as well as emergency rescue systems.
• With effect from 27 June 2013, eight coaches of the train will run between Banihal and Baramulla. There will be five trips on daily basis of Banihal-Baramulla-Banihal train.
• This rail link will bring down the distance from 35 km by road to 18 km.
• The cost of this rail link is 1691 crore Rupees.
India’s longest railway tunnel through Pir Panchal mountain range
• The 11 km long railway tunnel through Pir Panchal mountain range is the longest railway tunnel (transportation passage of this kind) of India.
• Around 1300 workers as well as 150 engineers worked on the tunnel. The work on this tunnel started in November 2005.
• The tunnel was constructed by making use of the New Austrian Tunnelling Method (NATM). It is for the first time that the method of this kind was used on a large scale in India. The project was implemented by Hindustan Construction Company.
• This is also the second longest tunnel of Asia. The longest tunnel of Asia is in China.
• The tunnel is absolutely water proof. It is also equipped with latest fire fighting system throughout the tunnel.
• This tunnel passes around 440 metres below the already-existing Jawahar Road Tunnel.
• The provision of 3 metres wide concrete road has also been given inside the tunnel throughout its length. This road has been constructed for emergency relief purposes as well as maintenance of the tunnel. The road is just adjacent to the railway track.
• Longest tunnel in Asia is Wushaoling tunnel (20 km) in Gansu, China.