Valley to have longest tunnel in rail network

16 March 2008
The Daily Excelsior


NEW DELHI: With an aim to connect the Kashmir valley with the rest of the country through rail link, work on a 11-km tunnel - the longest in Indian railway network - is being carried out between Banihal and Banihal in Jammu and Kashmir. Besides the most modern ventilation and drainage system, the tunnel will also have a service road along the railway track for emergency usage. 'The tunnel will be the longest in the Indian Railway network,' said a senior official of IRCON. IRCON is entrusted with the responsibility of constructing the 187-km-long railway network from Baramulla to Sangaldan as part of the Kashmir rail link project. Passing through the Pir Panjal mountain, the tunnel is being constructed with the state-of-the-art technology. 'We are using the most modern technology of New Austrian Tunneling Method (NATM) with the help of six German consultants,' the official said, adding, 'our engineers are also involved in designing of and constructing the tunnel.' The NATM allows frequent review of the tunnel design keeping the typical geological condition of the area. 'Here the rock is generally disintegrated and fractured,' the official said. The work is going on at four places at a time and the tunnel, which will be eight metres high, will have to be completed by 2010. About the service road, the official said since the tunnel is a long one, it was decided to have a three-metre road along the track 'for emergency use of ambulance and small trucks, if required.' This will be the first-of-its-kind tunnel in the country which will have a service road along, the official said. The 340-km long Kashmir rail link project aims to link Katra with Baramulla through Reasi, Laoli, Banihal, Anantnag and Srinagar. 'The construction of Banihal-Qazigund section which will have the longest tunnel is quite challenging. The alignment passes through difficult terrain with thick forests, deep gorges and the inaccessible steep mountains, the official said. IRCON had made extensive use of information technology in conducting the survey, design and project management. 'We have to create digital terrain model from contour maps and study alignment using geological mapping,' he said. 'We have already constructed the tunnel upto 4.5 km.' There will be a total of 22 shelters in the tunnel for maintaining power supply and other essential services. Adequate lighting and ventilation system would be installed.