Asia’s second longest railway tunnel from Banihal to Qazigund in J-K to open in June

Finishing touches are being given to India’s longest railway transportation tunnel, Pir Panchal Railway Tunnel, which will link Kashmir valley with Banihal tehsil of Jammu.

The 10.96 km is likely to be thrown open this month.

The tunnel connects Bichleri Valley of Banihal with Qazigund area of Kashmir Valley, is the India’s first longest transport tunnel and Asia’s second longest tunnel. Longest tunnel in Asia is Wushaoling tunnel (20 km) in Gansu, China.

The tunnel will reduce distance between Banihal and Qazigund, which is also one of the most treacherous stretches in the entire Rs.11,000 crore-worth 292 km Udhampur-Kashmir rail network project, from 35 km by road to 17.5 km on train.

Since October 2009, the railway line from Qazigund to Baramulla (119 km) is operational for public. Now with completion of the tunnel train would run from Baramulla to Banihal.

“This state-of-the-art tunnel is 100 percent water-proof and equipped with a fire fighting system throughout its entire length,” says Project Manager of Hindustan Construction Co Ltd Sharnappa Yalal.

Yalal has been part of the project since 2005 when it was awarded to the HCC.

“You see we have completed everything. The tunnel can be commissioned any time now,” relieved Yalal said.

The Pir Panchal tunnel is 440 m lower than the existing Jawahar road tunnel so as to ensure that the effect of snow is minimal.

The Jawahar tunnel was built in 1950s by the drill and blast method. While as New Austrian Tunneling Method (NATM) has been employed for the first time in India for Pir Panchal tunnel.

In this method, geological stress from the surrounding rock is used to stabilize the tunnel hole and finishing of the tunnel is carried out simultaneously as one goes on excavating. The Pir Panchal tunnel has a maximum overburden (height of mountain strata above the tunnel) of 1100 meters.

Yalal said the construction of the tunnel was not an easy task to execute.

“The engineers faced excavation challenges,” he said.

He said the variations in geological terrain conditions within the tunnel had made the excavation work difficult endeavour.

The strata of rock along the tunnel alignment differed from hard rock to soft grounds, forcing the engineers to use different types of excavation techniques like excavation by tunnel excavator or through a road header or by drill and blast method.

The work on this tunnel was started in early 2006 and was scheduled to complete by mid-2009.

“During the course of work, additional work was allocated by to us and thus the tenure of the project was increased simultaneously,” says Vikram Tanwer, Manager Corporate Communications, Hindustan Construction Company Ltd.

“There really was no delay as such in the completion of the tunnel,” he said.

The total cost of the tunnel was Rs. 1300 crore. The officials say there was zero fatality during the entire project.

Tanwer says the tunnel is marvel in tunneling technology and would help in similar other experiments in the region including Ladakh in long way.

Eight different types of geological strata were found across the entire length of the tunnel.

“In some locations, the rock would burst unexpectedly during excavation. Then, there were areas where significant water seepage was encountered from the rock. In spite of all the unanticipated challenges and varying circumstances, the successful execution of this project in testing Himalayan terrain conditions definitely serves as a model for the construction of further such tunnels in this region,” he said.

Engineers also say that some natural streams in the area have dried up due to the cutting of mountain. Locals also said that excavation material, equivalent to two mountains, was not properly dumped and was scattered around.

Source – india today

Kashmir Valley to get crucial rail link by May

The critical Banihal-Qazigund rail section will expectedly be commissioned by this coming May at the PMO’s prodding, making the Kashmir Valley accessible throughout the year putting an end to its isolation during winter.

The 17.7 km-long section was tested in the last week of December. The rail section comprises the longest rail tunnel in India, passing through the Pirpanjal Himalayan ranges that separate the valley from the Jammu region and the rest of India.

IRCON, which is executing the project at an estimated cost of Rs. 1,670 crore, was expected to complete the other mechanical and electrical jobs by this March. The Commissioner of Railway Safety, too, was expected to give his clearance for operation within March.

Taking cognizance of the failure to abide by the deadline, the Prime Minister’s Office held a meeting here on Friday, took stock of the situation, and directed that the section be commissioned within the next two months. The Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary Pulok Chatterjee chaired the meeting.

The trial run of the first train in December tested the single broad gauge track of the 11.215-km-long Pirpanjal tunnel, constructed at a cost of Rs.1,172 crore. It also has a three-metre-wide maintenance and emergency road route.

IRCON declared that it would be able to provide world class ventilation in the tunnel apart from installing safety emergency lighting, sensors for detection of obnoxious gases and fire and linear fire alarm systems by March, notwithstanding the severe winter. This deadline to connect Qazigund, the last station in the Valley, with Banihal in the Jammu region opening up Kashmir to the rest of the country has been missed.

When commissioned, this section will allow connectivity to passenger trains up to Baramulla via Srinagar. The 345-km-long Jammu-Srinagar-Baramulla section will get operational entirely in 2017 when Banihal is connected with Katra. Till then, visitors will have to use the road route up to Banihal and take the rail route that beats the weather condition providing all-weather connectivity.

The PMO also set deadlines for completion of strengthening of power transmission and distribution networks in J&K by March 2014 while directing that the 44-KW Chutak Hydro Electric Power project in Kargil be completed by October. The deadline for the 45-MW Nimoo Bazgo Hydro Electric Project in Ladakh is expected to go critical by December.

A train ride into the heart of Kashmir Valley

A short train ride through the Kashmir Valley’s green vistas and quiet village scenes thoroughly charmed and disarmed Times Travel. The lowing of cows and baa-ing of sheep makes the atmosphere here more Heidi-like. The place is indeed a paradise on earth, and Srinagar, its entre-pot

It’s not South Africa’s famous Blue Train, nor is it Europe’s Orient Express; it’s not Rajasthan’s Palace on Wheels or even Karnataka’s Golden Chariot. It doesn’t have a catchy name, it doesn’t cost a fortune and there is no plush service on board. In fact, the only thing it has in common with the famous luxury trains that I’ve mentioned, is the promise of unforgettable vistas. Yet a brief hour’s ride on a spanking new red-and-blue train of the just opened Baramulla-Anantnag rail link changed my entire perception of a state that is at once iconic and unsettling at the same time: Kashmir.

As I prepared to embark on my first-ever visit to the Himalayan paradise, my teenage son protested, “Are you mad? Srinagar? Baramulla? Sopore? Anantnag? Don’t you see how these places make it to the papers every day? And you’re haring off there to see a train?!” It did sound kind of crazy even to me, after all I was no hard-nosed reporter of militancy and Indo-Pak issues. I dealt with the good life — travel, food, wine… What was I doing courting trouble? Yet, the prospect of actually seeing for myself a state that seemed to make it to the headlines for all the wrong reasons was too enticing to forego. Moreover, the thought that Kashmir Valley has actually got a train 155 years after the first one ran in India between Bombay and Pune in 1853 was too piquant not to explore further! How could anyone have resisted linking Paradise to the rest of India with bands of steel for so long?

Thus, with equal amounts of trepidation and excitement, I set off for Srinagar with my photographer colleague. The 80-minute flight was scarcely enough to gulp down some soggy lunch on board before craning our necks to see the craggy, still-snowy tops of the formidable Pir Panjal range, one of the Valley’s rocky guardians and the Jammu-Srinagar rail link’s most implacable hurdle!

On the horizon, the even higher, white peaks of the Zanskar spurs glimmered through the clouds. Was that Nanga Parbat, rearing its proud head above the other massifs? Or was it my imagination, given my life-long fascination for mountains? The Himalayas looked grand even from 35,000 ft, but as the aircraft began its rather precipitous descent into the Valley, they seemed to grow taller. Below, the green expanse of the valley beckoned like Shangri-La—an oasis amid the bare rocks and snow.

No wonder saints and seers, emperors and philosophers, poets and travellers alike have been enchanted by the valley for millennia. I could imagine why Jehangir kept returning there with his beloved Noorjehan, why Jesus was said to have spent his missing years here imbibing its unique syncretic ethos, and indeed why India has been sacrificing so many of our men in uniform for decades to protect this valley from vivisection. This was indeed paradise, and Srinagar its entre-pot!

Srinagar, for most people (this writer included) means the Dal lake, flat-bottomed houseboats and skimming shikaras, flower-laden gardens dating back to the Mughal era and handicrafts — images bolstered by Bollywood movies of yore. More recently Srinagar has meant bandhs at Lal Chowk, hartal calls by the Hurriyat, burning buses, flag marches by troops in camouflage fatigues, stone-throwing, scowling young men, and tales of militant attacks and casualties in ‘encounters’. I barely saw either stereotypical image!

Of the first, I had but a glimpse every day, from the beautifully manicured lawns of the imposing Lalit Grand Palace, the century-old colonial building, once the seat of Kashmir’s royal family. Today it’s Srinagar’s only five-star hotel, perched atop a hill at the head of the high-security Gupkar Road with fabulous views of the Dal Lake below.

We whizzed through the state capital on our way to various Northern Railway sites—including the superlative main station at Srinagar with its unbelievably beautiful carved wooden panelling in the portico and waiting room—but that was about as much as we saw of the ‘usual’ sights, good or bad. No sullen mobs, no shut shops, but yes, plenty of uniforms of all kinds, including two amiable armed J&K Police men who were there to guard our ‘expert’ guide, the deputy chief engineer of the railway project.

Published in: on October 14, 2012 at 4:34 am  Leave a Comment  
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