1-km Milestone For India's Longest Rail Tunnel
27 January 2007
The Indian Express
Qazigund: The first kilometre of the 11-km Banihal rail tunnel that will link Kashmir to rest of India has just been completed, promising to conquer the magnificent Pir Panjal Range, which has caused the Valley to miss a railway link for 154 years. The tunnel from Laole (Banihal) to Qazigund on the Udhampur-Srinagar line is going be Indian Railways' largest, and the second largest in Asia after the recently completed, 20-km Wushaoling tunnel in Gansu, northwest China. The longest operational rail tunnel in India is the 6.5-km Karbude on the Konkan railways. For nearly three years now, a team of about 500 has been working under the mountains round the clock and aims to finish the tunnel by December 2009. Early 2010 should see 40 trains ply on the tracks to and from the Valley. At the work site near Qazigund, a 56-metre shaft leads to a 36-metre passage opening into the 1 km of the tunnel already complete from the Srinagar end. Work is being simultaneously undertaken from the the South Portal-Jammu end, where another kilometre will be completed soon. Down the shaft cut through the mighty rocks, dazzling lights and roaring machines give the first glimpse of the effort that has gone into making the 9.5-meter horse-shoe hole. Designed by an Austrian team, which supervises the work every week, the tunnel is being dug according to the 'New Austrian tunnelling technique', first used in India for the Delhi Metro. The engineering effort is phenomenal even in this age as the rocks offer maximum resistance to even the world's most high-tech machines. The earth at the site is made of limestone, clay and quartizite. 'Quartizite is the most difficult to cut through.