Prime Minister Manmohan Singh along with UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday flagged off the first train connecting Banihal in Jammu region with Qazigund in Kashmir Valley.
The newly constructed station here, 125 km from summer capital Srinagar, was decked up with flowers and garlands to receive the VVIPs for flagging off the first train which will pass through 11 km tunnel through Pir Panchal range.
The eight-coach train carrying school children and officials of IRCON and Railways reached Qazigund in 25 minutes. The Banihal-Qazigund section, which includes an 11-km long tunnel, the country's longest, reduces the 35 km distanceto 18 km.
It has been constructed at a cost of Rs 1,691 crore. The Prime Minister and Gandhi boarded the train before its departure and interacted with the school children. They returned to Banihal from the new tunnel.
The 8-coach train will make regular operation from Banihal to Baramulla from June 27 after the inaugural run on June 26. The Banihal-Baramulla-Banihal train will make five trips daily beginning at 7.10 AM from Banihal and 7.35 AM from Baramulla.
The Udhampur-Banihal section is expected to be completed by 2017 connecting the Valley to the rest of the country round-the-year without any hindrance.