Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi inaugurate Banihal-Qazigund rail link

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi inaugurated the rail link between Banihal to Qazigund in the Valley.

Updated: Jun 26, 2013, 23:07 PM IST

Zee Media Bureau

Srinagar: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday inaugurated an all-weather rail link to the Kashmir Valley, and assured that the UPA government at the Centre is committed to the development of Jammu and Kashmir.

On the final day of his two-day visit to the state, the Prime Minister opened nearly 11-km-long tunnel to link the towns of Bannihal and Qazigund in the two regions.

The rail connectivity will cut the present surface distance between the two towns by 18 km.

Congratulating the personnel of the Indian Railways and the people of Jammu and Kashmir, the PM said, “This will link the Kashmir Valley to the progress in rest of India. We will link this to the rest of the rail network.”

Addressing a public meeting, Singh called for timely completion of remaining railway projects to ensure all-weather link to the state, which gets cut off from the rest of the country in harsh winters.

“I urge the Railways to complete work on the Chenab bridge as quickly as possible so that we have an all-weather link to Kashmir,” he said.

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi complimented Chief Minister Omar Abdullah for all-round development in state.

Earlier, the PM boarded the train which carried children on its first run through the Pir Panjal mountain range tunnel, the longest rail tunnel in the country and the second longest in Asia.

He shook hands with the children on board and sat with them as the train wound its way through the tunnel.

Manmohan Singh then went back to Bannihal on the same train to address the public meeting.

CM Abdullah and Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad accompanied the PM on the train journey.

The 10.96 km railway tunnel has been built at a cost of Rs 1,300 crores. An eight-coach train will operate on the route from June 27.

(With agency inputs)