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The main tunnel of T-49, the longest tunnel of Indian Railways, between Sumber and Arpinchala station of Katra-Banihal section of Udhampur- Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link (USBRL) project has been connected successfully on Tuesday, informed Northern Railways.

"A major milestone has been achieved by executing break-through of Tunnel T49 between Sumber and Arpinchala Station on ongoing Katra-Banihal Section. It is worthwhile to mention that line and level of the tunnel is precisely achieved in break-through," the Northern Railways said in a statement.

Out of 272 km length of Udhampur Srinagar Baramulla Rail Link Project (USBRL) project, 161 km has already been commissioned and operationalized.

The work of the intervening stretch of 111 km between Katra Banihal is under progress at rapid pace, railways said.

"Katra-Banihal Section is traversing through hilly terrain of lower Himalaya's, in which Geology is a major challenge. It has several major bridges and very long tunnels which are under construction at different stages," it said.

T49 is a tunnel of length 12.758 km long and it is going to be the longest tunnel of Indian Railway surpassing Peer Panjal Tunnel of 11.2 km length constructed by USBRL on the Banihal-Qazigund section.

The south portal (SP) of Tunnel T-49 is located in picturesque Sumber Village at a distance of 45 km from District H.Q. Ramban of Jammu and Kashmir at an altitude of 1400 meters, while the North Portal (NP) of the tunnel is located near Arpinchala village Tehsil Khari, District Ramban, in Mahu-Mangat Valley at an altitude of 1600 meters approximately.

T-49 tunnel is having two tubes -- one is the main tunnel and other being escape tunnel. The tunnel has been constructed by NATM (New Austrian Tunneling Method), which is a modern technique of drill and blast method. The Cross-section profile of the tunnel is modified horseshoe-shaped. This tunnel length is very long.

In order to facilitate construction, three adits namely Urnihal Adit, Hingni Adit and Kundan Adit have also been constructed. The tunnel has a ruling gradient 1 in 80 and designed speed of 100 kmph. As per International standards, the Escape Tunnel being constructed parallel to the Main Tunnel is connected by cross passages at an interval of 375m to facilitate rescue and restoration work.

The work of construction was entrusted by NR to IRCON International Ltd. which has assigned works in two packages to HCC and AFCONS. HCC is executing the work of 5.1 km length from South Portal and AFCONS is executing the length of 7.658 km from North Portal.

The railways said that several challenges were encountered in the course of construction such as shear zone, perched aquifer, and highly jointed rock mass, rock problems of squeezing and high ingress of water. The team of experienced engineers of Northern Railway, IRCON and the executing agencies HCC and AFCONS successfully negotiated all challenges and made possible to achieve this major breakthrough.

During construction activities of the tunnel local population was employed by agencies for various works, in the region which has changed the overall socio-economic landscape.

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