In a significant boost to connectivity between the Kashmir valley and Jammu region, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh on June 26, 2013 inaugurated the 17.7-km-long Banihal-Qazigund section of the ambitious mountain railway. Dr. Singh flagged off the first train and boarded it for a journey across the 11.2-km tunnel the longest in the country, through the Pir Panjal ranges.
The Banihal-Qazigund section, which reduces the 35-km distance by road by half, was constructed at cost about Rs. 1,700 crore. The Udhampur-Katra-Banihal section, which will connect the Kashmir valley with the rest of the countrv’s rail network, expected to be completed by 2017. People from Banihal can now reach Qazigund in just 12 minutes by train. At present, it takes about an hour and 15 minutes by road to commute between the two places.
The Kashmir Valley Railway is a 119-km-long modern railway line that became completely operational in 2009. So far it is an island railway, not yet connected to the Indian Railway network. It connects Baramulla in the western part of Kashmir to Qazigund at the other end of the valley, via Srinagar.