press trust of india
NEW DELHI/SRINAGAR, 25 JUNE: Kashmir’s dream of an all-weather surface link will turn into a reality tomorrow when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi inaugurate the rail link between Banihal to Qazigund in the Valley.
Mr Singh and Mrs Gandhi will jointly flag off the first train at around 11.50 a.m. on the 18-km-long section between Banihal in Jammu and Qazigund in Kashmir, starting the rail service to the Valley.
The 8-coach train operate regularly from Banihal to Baramulla from 27 June after the inaugural run on 26 June.
The Banihal-Baramulla-Banihal train will make five trips daily, beginning at 7.10 a.m. from Banihal and 7.35 a.m. from Baramulla.
Railway minister Mallikarjun Kharge, Jammu and Kashmir Governor N N Vora and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah along with other Central ministers Farooq Abdullah and Ghulam Nabi Azad are expected to be present on the historic occasion.
“We have seven pairs of trains to run between Banihal and Baramulla. Earlier, there were five rakes only, but now it has been increased,” said a senior Northern railway official. The Banihal-Qazigund section, which includes an 11-km-long tunnel, will reduce the distance from 35 km (by road) to 18 km. It has been constructed at Rs 1,691 crore.
This rail section is very significant as it will provide an all-weather link to Kashmir Valley which often gets cut off from the rest of the country due to snowfall during winters.
Passengers travelling by train from Kashmir Valley to Banihal can avail bus service from there till Udhampur where train service is available for the rest of the country.
Northern Railways is coordinating with Jammu and Kashmir government for arrangements for the bus service. “The bus service will be available from Udhampur to facilitate passengers availing train from Banihal next month,” a senior Northern Railway official said.
Train service is already operational within Kashmir Valley on the 118-km-long route between Qazigund and Baramulla in north Kashmir.
“It (Qazigund-Banihal section) was a challenging task. Besides, the difficult terrain, land was acquired for the Kashmir rail link project in adverse law and order situation in the state,” the official said.
A trial run on Banihal-Qazigund section was successfully done on 28 December last year and since then trains carrying stones are running on a regular basis. Currently, problems are being faced by passengers travelling between Banihal and Qazigund due to closure of Jawahar Tunnel in winter months due to heavy snowfall.
Last winter, only one-way vehicular movement was allowed between Jammu and Srinagar on the national highway. There were sudden closures for almost four months from December 2012 to March this year due to heavy snowfall and slippery conditions. “All the problems will be reduced to a large extent by running of train services between Banihal and Qazigund,” the Northern Railway official said, adding that “it will be a cheaper, faster and dependable mode of transport for the people.”
Known as the Pir Panjal tunnel, it is the longest transportation tunnel in India and the third longest in Asia. The tunnel has been constructed at an estimated cost of Rs 1,300 crore and
taken almost seven years to complete.
The tunnel has been constructed using New Austrian Tunneling Method, which has been used for the first time on such a large scale in India. This method optimises the tunnel design by mobilising the inherent ground strength in adopting a curved section, providing primary support system immediately after excavation and monitoring the ground behaviour while permitting it to develop its inherent strength.
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SRINAGAR, 25 JUNE: The ruling National Conference today asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to consider early restoration of autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir and initiate talks with all shades of opinion in the state. An 18-member NC delegation, led by MP Mehboob Beg, called on the Prime Minister here and discussed political and developmental issues facing the state, a party spokesman said. The delegation also pitched for resumption of Indo-Pak dialogue, implementation of Working Groups and interlocutors’ reports, opening cross-LoC routes and special recruitment package for youths in various Central government departments and institutions. Revision of special package for Kashmiri migrants, special package for PoK Refugees of 1947, 1965 and 1971, package for earthquake affected areas and rehabilitation and return of misguided Kashmir youth from across the LoC were among the demands raised by the delegation. The demand for quota for the Paharis without affecting the reservation available to the Scheduled Tribe was also raised. pti