Book a direct train ticket to Srinagar

Longest railway tunnel will enable access to the Valley throughout the year

This winter onwards nothing can stop you from enjoying the snow in Srinagar. Inclement weather — be it snow, rain or blizzard — will neither stop you from reaching the Valley nor will they make your return plan go astray.

Plan your travel programme to the last detail and the railways will help you stick to it. That is what they are promising August onwards after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi script a golden chapter on June 26 by dedicating to the nation a railway tunnel that will make the Valley accessible all through the year.

The inauguration of the longest rail tunnel will help the J&K railway line step out of the confines of the Valley and cross over to the other side of the Pir Panjal Ranges of the Himalayas and reach the newly established Banihal station, the last station in Jammu. At present, train services are available only between Baramulla and Qazigund in Kashmir.

Though the construction of the Jammu-Udhampur-Banihal-Qazigund-Srinagar-Baramulla section in its entirety is still three years away, the partial opening itself, linking the Valley with the Jammu region, is of crucial importance.

The Udhampur-Banihal section is still under construction with the challenge of erecting one of the tallest bridges on the Chenab that is expected to be completed by December 2017.

You will still not have to wait for that to fructify to reach the Valley as the railways intends to put in place a single ticket passage to Srinagar. A multi-modal travel package will be made available. In cooperation with the State government a common rail-road ticket will be made available.

It will be a train journey up to Udhampur and a luxury bus will curve through the mountains to Banihal. There after, the exhilarating and unique journey beckons you.

The coaches will give you the pleasure of first passing through the 11.215-km-long Pir Panjal tunnel, which is also the second longest transportation tunnel in Asia, constructed at an estimated cost of Rs. 1172 crore over a period of seven years. The 17.729-km-long Banihal-Qazigund section, which includes the tunnel, entails a cost of Rs. 1691 crore.

It will be a matter of minutes that you will whiz through the illuminated tunnel at a speed of 100 km per hour. And as you emerge, it will be like skiing through the vast expanse of snow on both sides of the track right up to Baramulla.

Since the tunnel is located below the Jawahar road tunnel, the problem of snow is not insurmountable during winter. The Jawahar tunnel remains closed for several days together, cutting the Valley off from the rest of the country. The Army helps in the clearance of the road.

That won’t be the case anymore this winter onwards. Officials say the snow that falls at the two ends of the tunnel could be cleared easily providing for unhindered movement of trains. The strategic importance of the tunnel need hardly be stressed. The tunnel has a three-metre-wide road as well for emergency purposes.

A historic rail link to Kashmir Valley

The train passes through the longest railway tunnel in the country during trial run

People welcoming a train as it emerges from India’s longest railway tunnel in the Pir Panjal range during its trial run on Friday.

Northern Railway made history on Friday as the first train chugged through India’s longest railway tunnel in the Pir Panjal mountain range, connecting Kashmir Valley to Banihal town on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway.

The train, on a trial run, arrived at Banihal station from Qazigund in Anantnag district of Kashmir, and was welcomed by hundreds of residents of this highway town.

The train chugged in at the station amid thunderous applause from the people, who had assembled here to witness the historic achievement of Indian railways.

The trial run was scheduled to be conducted on Thursday but had to be postponed following protests by residents of villages falling along the Qazigund-Banihal railway link who were demanding a one-minute halt station for the train at Hillad village.

The protesters, backed by a local politician, tried to block the track again but were persuaded by the civil administration officials to allow the train to pass.

A. P. Mishra, Member of the Railway Board, said the train services between Banihal and Kashmir Valley will start in February or March next year while the entire railway project connecting the Valley with the rest of the country will be completed by 2017.

While the Baramulla-Srinagar-Qazigund link has been functional for the past four years, this was the first time that a train has crossed the mighty Pir Panjal Mountain range.

The highlight of the Qazigund-Banihal link is the 11.21-km tunnel, the longest railway tunnel in India, which has reduced the distance between the two towns by half.

The tunnel, which was constructed by Hindustan Construction Corporation (HCC), will reduce the travel distance between Qazigund and Banihal from 35 kilometres (by road) to just 17.5 kilometres (by train).

The Pir Panjal tunnel, which is the second longest in Asia, is a vital link in the Railways’ dream project of connecting Kashmir to Udhampur in Jammu region.

The tunnel is 8.40 metres wide with a height of 7.39 metres. There is a provision of a three-metre-wide road along the length of the tunnel for the purpose of maintenance and emergency relief.

The rail link will provide an alternative link between Kashmir and rest of the country as the Srinagar-Jammu national highway gets blocked regularly due to heavy snowfall. – PTI