Pir Panjal tunnel commissions for rail traffic
Pir Panjal tunnel, which is part of the Banihal-Qazigund section of the Jammu–Srinagar–Udhampur railway line, was commissioned in the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on June 26, 2013. Constructed by HCC, the 11-km long tunnel that runs 440 meter beneath the existing Jawahar Road tunnel will reduce the distance of the section from 35 km by road to 17.5 km by train. The project is considered to be longest transportation tunnel in India and second longest in Asia.
Arun Karambelkar, president & whole time director, HCC said, “The tunnel has been constructed using New Austrian Tunnelling Method (NATM) and it is for the first time in the country that this method has been used on such a large scale. About 1300 workers and 150 engineers worked round the clock to accomplish this challenging task. Overcoming all odds, the HCC project team sustained round-the-clock work execution across all project fronts, even in freezing winter temperatures, with a singular objective – to successfully execute this project of national importance.”
IRCON International Ltd, an autonomous constructing agency for the Indian Railways, was entrusted with the task to construct a section of the 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 has been operational for public since October 2009. In order to accelerate the balance work, the total length between Dharam to Quazigund section was divided into six zones and the contract for zones – IV, VA and VB was awarded to HCC. On successful completion of these contracts, HCC was subsequently awarded a contract for construction of a 10.2 km long T48 tunnel between Dharam and Qazigund.
The tunnel excavation was commenced by HCC in November 2005. During the course of work, the project team faced several technical challenges due to unpredictable geology and inconsistency of the rock mass of this region. “Despite the challenges, the project team successfully completed the work with a zero Accident record. The overall breakthrough between Banihal to Qazigund was achieved on October 2011 and execution of a 6.4 km long tunnel was carried out in a single phase,” the company said.
Opening of this section will significantly ease the transportation problem faced by the people during winters when inclement weather forces closure of the Jawahar tunnel—the sole link to the Kashmir Valley. In addition, it will considerably reduce the travel time between the two places.