Protesters on Thursday forced the cancellation of first trial-run of the train engine through India’s longest railway tunnel connecting Qazigund in Kashmir to Banihal in Jammu.
The protesters blocked the railway track demanding brief halt points en route so that they can set up kiosks for livelihood.
Railway officials assurances to look into their demands too failed to convince the protestors which ultimately prompted them to cancel the trail run for Thursday after covering more than four kilometers on the track.
“We covered 4.5 kilometers but protesters did not allow us to go further. Later the trail run through the tunnel could not be conducted. Tunnel is complete and everything is in place and we will be doing the trail run again shortly,” said a railway official.
An engineering marvel, the 11.2 kilometer Pir Panjal tunnel, the second longest in Asia after China, has been carved underneath the existing Jawahar tunnel on Srinagar-Jammu national highway.
“Around Rs1,300 crore has been spent on the tunnel since the work started in September 2005. It is an engineering marvel. Despite facing problems and changing geology of the Pir Panjal ranges, we have emerged successful in drilling the tunnel,” Sharnappa Yalal, project manager Pir Panjal tunnel of HCC told DNA.
The trial run would now be held on Friday, officials said.
Officials are hopeful that in next couple of months the train should be able to reach Banihal from Baramulla and Srinagar.
Railway officials say once the trail is conducted there would be an inspection from the railway safety board after which the train would be allowed to cross to Banihal.
“It means in next few months train will chug from Kashmir to Banihal,” said an official
The tunnel is a part of the 292 kilometer Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla railway line that would connect the valley with the rest of the country.
It is divided into three sections – Udhampur-Katra, Katra-Qazigund and Qazigund-Baramulla.
The Katra-Qazigund section is the toughest of all with almost 80% of tracks passing through tunnels or bridges.
There are more than 60 long and short tunnels on this stretch making it one of the toughest tracks in the country.