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India’s longest transportation tunnel opens in Jammu 

According to railway officials associated with the project, the tunnel survey work started around 1996 but the tender was awarded in December 2013 so it took around 10 years to operationalise it. Eight electrified trains have started running between Baramulla and Banihal and four of those have been extended to Sangaldan.

The longest transportation tunnel of the country on the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link (USBRL) was opened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday as he flagged off the first electrified trains of the Kashmir valley.

“Prime Minister Modi was present in Jammu and he virtually flagged off two electrified trains simultaneously — one from Srinagar to Sangaldan in the down direction and the other from Sangaldan to Srinagar in the up direction,” a railway official said.

Over 100 school children and their teachers took the inaugural trip from each side as special guests.

The official added that the prime minister also inaugurated the 48.1-km-long Banihal-Khari-Sumber-Sangaldan section. “This longest tunnel, which is 12.77 km long and known as T-50, falls between the Khari-Sumber section,” the official said.

According to the Northern Railway (NR), trains can now run from Baramulla to Sangaldan via Banihal, which used to be the last or originating station earlier.

T-50 is supposed to be the most challenging of the 11 tunnels in the Banihal-Khari-Sumber-Sangadal section.

According to railway officials associated with the project, the tunnel survey work started around 1996 but the tender was awarded in December 2013 so it took around 10 years to operationalise it.

“All safety measures have been taken inside the tunnel for emergency situations. An escape tunnel has been constructed parallel to T-50 to evacuate passengers in case of any emergency,” an official said.

“At every 375 metres, a connecting passage between the escape tunnel and T-50 has been made so that the passengers can be brought to the escape tunnel and then, carried to their desired destinations in vehicles,” he added.

The official told that in order to tackle a fire incident, water pipes have been laid on both sides of the tunnel with an opening valve provided at every 375 metres so that water can be sprayed on a train from both sides to douse the flames.

“Escape tunnels have been created for other bigger tunnels too,” he said.

According to NR officials, the opening of the Banihal-Khari-Sumber-Sangaldan section has brought them a step closer to achieving the dream of running a train from the Kasmir valley in the north to Kanyakumari on the southern tip of the country.

“Earlier, eight diesel trains (four each from one side) were operating between Baramulla and Banihal. Today, Prime Minister Modi not only inaugurated the extension of the Banihal route to Sangaldan via Khari and Samber but also flagged off the first electrified trains on the whole route from Baramulla to Sangaldan,” the official said.

Now, eight electrified trains have started running between Baramulla and Banihal and four of those have been extended to Sangaldan.

“The four other trains will also be extended up to Sangaldan after a couple of months,” the official added.

According to experts associated with the project, the first section of the USBRL — the Quazigund-Baramulla section — was operationalised by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in 2009. In July 2013, the Banihal-Quazigund section, which included the operationalisation of the 11.2-km-long T-80 Pir Panjal tunnel, was opened.

“Once the complete USBRL opens in the coming months, passengers will enjoy infrastructural marvels, such as the Chenab bridge, the highest railway bridge in the world, and the Anji bridge, which is the first cable-stayed bridge of the Indian Railways,” an NR official said, adding that the total length of the USBRL is 272 km and the cost of the project is Rs 41,119 crore.

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