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Kashmir train crosses longest tunnel to Banihal
BANIHAL/SRINAGAR, Dec 28: The trial run of the rail link connecting Qazigund and Banihal which was disrupted yesterday by the local residents was conducted today successfully by the railway authorities.

Northern Railways today made history as the first train chugged through India's longest railway tunnel through the Pir Panjal mountain range, connecting Kashmir valley to Banihal town on Srinagar-Jammu National Highway. The train on a trial run, arrived at Banihal station from Qazigund in Anantnag district of Kashmir, was witnessed by hundreds of local residents of this highway town.

The train chugged in at the station amidst 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 December 27 but had to be postponed following protests by residents of villages falling along Qazigund-Banihal railway link, who were demanding a one minute halt station for the train at Hillar village.

The trial was yesterday put at halt by the people of several villages by blocking the track as they were demanding a halting point near 'Hillar' village. Reports said that on the intervention of district administration who assured the villagers of getting the issue resolved with the railway authorities they (villagers) allowed the trial today.

"The trial run of the rail link was successfully conducted today after the district administration intervened and assured the locals that they will resolve the issue of the construction of the halting point with the railway authorities amicably," officials said.

They said the bogey which was put to trial successfully chugged back with railway officials, Deputy Commissioner Anantnag and SSP Anantnag on board," they said, adding that train services from Baramulla to Banihal will be started on daily basis by March 2012.

When contacted, Deputy Commissioner, Anantnag, Farooq Ahmad Shah, said that the trial run of the rail link was successfully conducted today.

"We have taken up the issue of the construction of halting point with railway officials and they have agreed to resolve the issue," DC said, adding that railway officials have assured the district administration that they will send the feasibility report to their higher ups for erecting the halting point within three days. Shah, however, added that they will not allow anybody to hamper the construction of the project. "Whatever will be the demand of the locals that will be addressed but nobody will be allowed to hamper the project," DC said.

The protesters, backed by a local politician, tried to block the track today again but were persuaded by the civil administration officials to allow the train to pass. AP Mishra, member of the Railway Board, said the train services between Banihal and Kashmir Valley will start in February or March 2013 while the entire railway project connecting the Valley with the rest of the country will be completed by 2017.

This trial train was also boarded by ME (Member Engineering railway board) A P Mishra, CAO/USBRL NR, Genral Manager IRCON, DC Anantnag and Kashmir based press reporters. The trial train reached Banihal with high security arrangements. Thousands of people from different villages of Banihal reached Station yard Kaskoot Banihal to have a glance of this first and historical arrival of trial train from Qazigund to Banihal.

Trial train which was scheduled to 3 PM yesterday reached at 1:32 PM Banihal today. The villagers of Kaskoot, Zanihal, Ashar and Fahwagan staged protest at Banihal Railway Station by in lieu of their long pending demands like FOB, irrigation for agricultural lands and recruitment for land owners who gave land to railway. After the assurance of ME AP Mishra people stopped protest. The protesters also entered into press conference room at IRCON office and briefed about long pending demands.

Giving detail about the success of the project Member Engineering railway board AP Mishra told media at Banihal that all the major works have been completed and finishing touch is being given. This section will be ready for opening shortly. The total expenditure of Rs 1691 crores has been incurred by the railways to complete this section.

Banihal-Qazigund section is 17.729 Kms long out of which 6.514 Km portion is on cutting and embankment including bridges and 11.215 Kms is through tunnel. About 11, 78,500.00 cubic meters of earthwork in cutting and filling has been done. The maximum depth of cutting is 15.20 meters and maximum height of embankment is 16.70 meters. 39 bridges have been constructed in this section which included two major bridges, 30 minor bridges and 7 of ROBs/RUBs.

The section consists of only one tunnel i.e. Pir Panjal Tunnel which is 11.215 Km long. This tunnel is longest transportation tunnel in India and second longest in Asia. The tunnel has been constructed with total cost of Rs 1300 crores. Almost seven years have been taken by Railways to complete this tunnel. About 7,500 Metric Tonnes of steel, 3, 28,000 cubic meters of concrete has been used and 10,00,000 cubic meters of underground excavation has been done to complete the tunnel. 1300 workers and 150 engineers worked round the clock to accomplish this challenging task, Mishra asserted.

In order to expedite the work on this tunnel by creating more working faces, one Adit of 772 meter length and one Shaft of 56 meter depth and 11 meter diameter was constructed. The tunnel has been constructed by NATM (New Austrian Tunneling Method) which was firstly used on such large scale in India. This method optimizes the tunnel design by mobilising the inherent ground strength in adopting a curved section, providing primary support system immediately after the excavation and monitoring the ground behaviour while permitting it to develop its inherent strength. Maximum overburden on this tunnel is 1100 meters and bore holes up to 640 meters depth were drilled for geo-technical investigations. A 3 meters wide road has been provided inside the tunnel for maintenance, emergency rescue and relief operations. The tunnel has been made water proof by providing continuous PVC membrane between primary and secondary lining. The tunnel has been equipped with the state of the Art air quality monitoring system, ventilation system, communication system, fire fighting system and emergency rescue system in case of emergency. Blastless track system has been provided inside the tunnel which is pollution and maintenance free with very good riding quality. By adoption of these systems, Pir Panjal tunnel will be totally dry, pollution free, safe, comfortable and completely illuminated.

Opening of Banihal-Qazigund railway section will be a turning point not only in the history of Jammu & Kashmir State only, but for Indian Railway’s history. A lot of problems are being faced by passengers travelling between Banihal and Qazigund due to closure of Jawahar Tunnel in winter season owing to heavy snow fall. All these problems will be reduced to a large extent by running of train services between Banihal-Qazigund. Moreover, the distance between Banihal and Qazigund will also be reduced from 35 Km road length to 17.729 Kms railway line. It will be a cheaper, faster and dependable mode of transport, Mishra added.

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News Updated at : Saturday, December 29, 2012
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Kashmir train crosses longest tunnel to Banihal
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