PM To Dedicate Banihal Rail Line, Mughal Road To Nation

PM To Dedicate Banihal Rail Line, Mughal Road To Nation

28 May 2013
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh during his one day visit to Kashmir Valley on June 25 was likely to dedicate to the people two major projects of the State including Banihal-Qazigund railway line and Mughal Road project, which would go a long way in cutting down the travel distance to Kashmir. Meanwhile, All India Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, who was scheduled to visit Kashmir, Doda and Bhaderwah today but had to postpone his visit due to preoccupation in Chhatisgarh where a number of Congress leaders were killed and injured by the Maoists, was likely to visit the State now on a day’s visit in first week of June, most likely on June 5. Rahul would announce package under ‘Umeed’ scheme in Kashmir and assess damage caused by May 1 earthquake in Doda and Bhaderwah towns of Jammu. Home Secretary-designate Anil Goswami, the first IAS officer of Jammu and Kashmir cadre and son of the soil to reach the top post, is also scheduled to pay maiden visit to his native State after being appointed as the Home Secretary from June 5 to 7. Mr Goswami, who would formally take over as the Home Secretary of the country on June 30 from incumbent RK Singh, would visit both Jammu and Kashmir regions. Mr Goswami would hold meetings with Governor NN Vohra, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and top brass of the civil and police administration and heads of para-military forces in the State to review situation. Sources said the Prime Minister is scheduled to dedicate to the nation the Qazigund-Banihal railway line, which has been completed by the Railways including an 11 kilometers Pir Panchal railway tunnel, which is longest in India and connects village Cheral in Banihal tehsil of Jammu and Qazigund in Kashmir. Presently, the train service is operating between Baramulla to Qazigund in Kashmir and Jammu to Udhampur in Jammu. The Government of India has set the deadline of 2018 for completion of Jammu-Baramulla railway line to link the Kashmir Valley by train with rest of the India. While the train would reach Katra anytime this year, the train from Qazigund to Banihal would start chugging after inauguration of the railway line by the Prime Minister on June 25 during his one day visit to the Kashmir Valley. Sources said Baramulla-Banihal railway line would considerably reduce the travel distance and would help the people travel by train up to Banihal from Kashmir and then take bus on way to Jammu. Banihal-Qazigund railway line comprised India’s longest 11.2 kilometers tunnel running through Pir Panchal ranges. Sources said the trial runs on Qazigund-Banihal railway line including the tunnel have been successful and discussions were on to finalise a point where the Prime Minister would inaugurate the railway line and address a meeting. The tunnel is longest in India and third longest in Asia. It would ease transportation problem to Kashmir especially during winter when snowfall forced closure of Jammu-Srinagar Highway in Banihal. It has been built at the cost of Rs 1300 crores and would reduce distance between Banihal and Qazigund by 17 kilometers. Banihal-Qazigund railway line was initially due to complete in 2009 and has been delayed by about three and a half years. The Mughal Road connecting twin border districts of Rajouri and Poonch to Shopian district in Kashmir is finally ready. Dr Singh was also schedule to inaugurate it. The 84 kilometers long Mughal Road has been constructed at an estimated cost of Rs 639.85 crores. The work on the road had started in October 2005 and was nearing completion, sources said, adding the work is being given final touches. Mughal Road is the road between Bafliaz, a town in Surankote area of Poonch district to Shopian district in the Kashmir Valley. It passed over Pir Panchal mountain range at an altitude of 11,500 feet (3505 meter), higher than Banihal pass (2832 meter) from the sea level. The road will bring the Poonch and Rajouri districts closer to Srinagar in Kashmir Valley and distance between Srinagar and Poonch will be reduced from 588 kilometers to just 126 kilometers. The Mughal Road would serve as viable alternate to existing Jammu-Srinagar National Highway. The all weather connectivity of the Mughal Road even during intense snow fall will give a fillip to the economy of the State, particularly tourism sector besides enhancing socio-economic graph of the region, sources said.