Banihal: The northern railways on Friday opened India's longest railway tunnel piercing through the Pir Panjal range in Jammu & Kashmir.
The tunnel is part of the ambitious Udhampur - Srinagar - Baramulla rail link project of Northern Railways. At 10.96km long, the Pir Panjal Railway Tunnel is India's longest and Asia's 2nd longest tunnel, aimed at reducing the travel distance between Quazigund and Banihal to only 11 km and providing a hassle-free travel up to Baramulla.
The 10.96 kms tunnel, which is aligned straight from north to south, is 100 percent water-proof and is also equipped with fire fighting system throughout its entire length.
According to project manager Hindustan construction corporation S Yala, the construction of the tunnel started in November 2005 and was complete in 2011. The total cost of the tunnel was Rs.391 crores.
The train would take 6.6 minutes to travel this distance from Banihal in south side to Qazigund in north side of the mountain and thus would take passenger from Jammu region in to Kashmir region just six minutes.
The fascinating fact about the tunnel excavation is that the total excavated quantity was equal to one mountain, says Vikram Singh Tanwar, PRO HCC.
He said, 1500 workers, employed to excavate the tunnel piercing the Pir Panjal mountain would meet one another when they dig out last spade of the muck tomorrow.
Interestingly, this railway tunnel is below Jawahar tunnel- meant for vehicular traffic only- which usually gets blocked during winters owing to heavy snowfall in the region.
The tunnel day-lighting was witnessed by A.P. Mishra - Member of Railway Board, Mohan Tiwari, Managing Director IRCON, B.D. Garg, CAO - Northern Railway, H. Khanna, Director (Works) IRCON, Achal Jain, Chief Engineer - Northern Railway. IRCON International Ltd, an autonomous constructing agency for Indian railway, was given the task to construct the part of Udhampur - Srinagar - Baramulla rail link project from Dharam to Baramulla section.
The railway line from Quazigund to Baramulla (119 km) was already completed by IRCON and it is operational to public since October 2009. In order to accelerate the balance work, the total length between Dharam to Quazigund section was divided into 6 Zones and the contract for the Zone - IV & V was awarded to HCC, project manager Yala said.
Yala said , due to the changing geological strata of the young Himalayan rock, New Australian Tunneling Methodology (NATM) was adopted for the construction. During survey, eight different types of geological strata were found in the entire length of the tunnel.