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India's longest railway tunnel opens

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The third longest railway tunnel in Asia has opened in India through the Pir Panjal mountain range.

At 11.2 km, the tunnel which connects Kashmir Valley to Banihal town, is the largest in the country.

On December 28, the first train travelled along the line in a trial run, ahead of the start of service in early 2013.

Built with an investment of $250 million, more than 1,300 workers and 150 engineers were involved in the project.

More than 7,500 metric tonnes of steel and 328,000 cubic metres of concrete have been used to complete the seven-year construction project.

Northern Railways will be operating services on the route, which has been constructed by Hindustan Construction Company (HCC), from next year.

One million cubic metres of earth had to be removed to construct the 8.4 metre wide, 7.39 metre high tunnel.

The new railway line will halve the current 35 km road journey between Banihal and Qazigund to under 18 km.

The tunnel – which is the third longest in Asia behind the 28 km long Taihang Tunnel and the 21 km long Wushaoling Tunnel, both in China – was constructed by NATM (New Austrian Tunnelling Method). It is the first time the method has been applied on such large scale in India.

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