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PM to Launch Pir Panjal Rail Tunnel

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday will open the 11-kms Pir Panjal rail tunnel in Banihal. The tunnel has been put up at an anticipated cost of Rs 1,300 crore and taken approximately seven years to complete. It will lessen the distance between the Banihal-Qazigund section from 35 km (by road) to 18 km. The tunnel will also connect Jammu and Kashmir to the rest of the Indian rail network. It is supposed to be India's longest and Asia's second longest passageway. The 8-coach train will be wilted of later on Wednesday. Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah will also be attending the occasion. This rail section is very important as it will offer an all-weather link to Kashmir Valley which often gets cut off from the rest of the nation due to snowfall during winters. At present, problems are being faced by passengers travelling amid Banihal and Qazigund due to closing of Jawahar Tunnel in winter due to serious snowfall. Last winter, only one-way vehicular movement was permitted between Jammu and Srinagar on national highway. There were unexpected closures for just about four months from December 2012 to March this year due to heavy snowstorm and smooth conditions. The tunnel has been built using New Austrian Tunnelling Method, which has been used for the first time on such a big scale in India. This technique optimizes the tunnel design by mobilizing the intrinsic ground strength in adopting a bowed section, providing primary support system right away after excavation and monitoring the ground behavior while permitting it to expand its intrinsic strength. A three-meter broad road has been provided within the tunnel for maintenance and emergency rescue and relief operations. The tunnel has been made water-proof by providing constant PVC membrane between primary and secondary lining. It has also been prepared with the state-of-the-art air quality monitoring system, ventilation system, communication system, fire fighting system and emergency rescue system.

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