The Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail link (USBRL) project achieved a major milestone on Wednesday (21 December) by breaking through 3-k—long tunnel T1 between Katra and Reasi Stations, on the Katra-Banihal section.
A substantial hurdle, the completion of tunneling on 3,209-m-long tunnel marks the breakthrough for all the tunnels on the rail link to Kashmir, which is nearing completion and likely to be accomplished in next few months.
"Congrats to team Railway for breakthrough of the 3209 m long tunnel T1 (Now all the tunnels work of Udhampur-Baramulla section is through),” Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said on the microblogging site X.
While elaborating about significance of the breakthrough and major hurdles faced in excavation of T-1, Railway officials said that the Tunnel’s alignment cuts across the lesser Himalayas and is characterised by highly jointed and fractured dolomite.
“Also, a portion of about 300-350 m length cuts across a major shear zone known as the Main Boundary Thrust (MBT). Due to the presence of shear zone coupled with high ingress of water, tunnel excavation in this stretch had been a daunting challenge,” explained the official.
The 272-km-long railway line from Udhampur to Baramulla joining the Kashmir valley with the Indian Railways network under Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail link (USBRL) project was sanctioned in 1994-95.
One of the most challenging works undertaken post-independence by Indian Railways, the project aims to provide an alternative and a reliable transportation system to Jammu and Kashmir.
In view of the importance of the USBRL project in providing seamless and hassle-free connectivity, it was declared as a “National Project” in 2002.
Out of the total length of 272 km, 161-km has already been commissioned and operationalised, across three sections — Udhampur-Katra (25 km), Banihal-Quazigund (18 km) and Quazigund-Baramulla section (118 km).
The 111 km-long Katra-Banihal section is the most crucial section of the project as it involves 164 km tunneling across 27 number of tunnels — the maximum in the project.
With 87 per cent of the total length (97 km out of 111 km) in tunnels, this section presents an engineering challenge in the highly rugged and mountainous terrain with one of the most difficult and complex Himalayan geology.
“This section predominantly involves tunnelling up to 97.42 km of the 111 km, which is 87 per cent of length of the Katra-Banihal section, is in tunnels. The maximum length is that of tunnel T-49, which is 12.77 km. This will be longest transportation railway tunnel in the country,” Ashwini Vaishnaw, Union Railways Minister, said in his written reply to an unstarred question in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.
The Katra-Banihal line is expected to be operationalised by January 2024.
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