|State||Jammu and Kashmir|
|Elevation||1,666 m (5,466 ft)|
|Time zone||IST (UTC+5:30)|
It has an average elevation of 1,666 m (5,466 ft). It is located about 35 km (22 mi) away from Qazigund of Anantnag district on NH 1A highway. However, the distance between Banihal and Qazigund is only 18 km by train on the new railway line which is much shorter than the road.
Banihal Pass (Devanagari: बनिहाल दर्रा) at 2,832 m (9,291 ft) elevation on Pir Panjal mountain connects Banihal with Qazigund on the other side of the mountain. The Pir Panjal mountain range separates the Kashmir valley in the Indian state Jammu and Kashmir from the outer Himalaya and plains to the south. After closure of the Murree-Muzaffarabad-Srinagar road on partition of India in 1947, Banihal pass was the only passage from Jammu to Srinagar after independence until 1956 when a tunnel was bored through the mountain. The pass is accessible only in summer and remains closed rest of the year due to heavy snow.
Banihal Road Tunnels
Existing road tunnel
A 2.5 km (1.6 mi) long tunnel at elevation of 2,194 m (7,198 ft) through Pir Panjal mountain under the Banihal pass connects Banihal with Qazigund on the other side of the mountain. The tunnel named Jawahar tunnel after the first Prime Minister of India was constructed in early 1950s and commissioned in December 1956 to ensure snow-free passage throughout the year. However, it remains closed for a few weeks in winter due to snow avalanches. It was designed for 150 vehicles per day in either direction but now used by more than 7,000 vehicles per day in both directions. Therefore a new wider and longer tunnel has been planned at a lower elevation.
Jawahar tunnel is maintained by Border Road Organisation (BRO) of the Indian army and guarded 24x7 by the CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force), which also monitors it by CCTVs as the tunnel is vital for the Kashmir valley. The tunnel used to be closed to civilian traffic from midnight to 8 a.m. until 2009. Now it is open 24 hours a day.
New double road tunnel
Construction of a new 8.45 km (5.25 mi) long Banihal-Qazigund road tunnel started in 2011 to widen NH 1A to four lanes. It is a double tube tunnel consisting of two parallel tunnels - one for each direction of travel. Each tunnel is 7 metre wide tunnel and has two lanes of road. The two tunnels are interconnected by a passage every 500 metres for maintenance and emergency evacuation. The tunnel will have forced ventilation for extracting smoke and stale air and infusing fresh air. It will have state of the art monitoring and control systems for security.
The new tunnel's average elevation at 1,790 m (5,870 ft) is 400 metre lower than the existing Jawahar tunnel's elevation and would reduce the road distance between Banihal and Qazigund by 16 km (9.9 mi). The new tunnel would also be less prone to snow avalanche as it will be at a lower elevation. The vehicles will have to pay toll tax to use the tunnel.
Most of the boring has been completed.
Banihal Rail Tunnel
A new 11.215 km (7 mile) long Banihal-Qazigund tunnel (also known as Pir Panjal railway tunnel) for the Kashmir Railway line connecting Bichleri Valley of Banihal with Qazigund area of Kashmir Valley has been constructed. The tunnel is 8.40 m wide with a height of 7.39 m. There is a three metre wide road along the length of the tunnel for the maintenance of railway tracks and emergency relief. The boring was completed in October 2011, its lining and laying of rail tracks was completed in the next one year and trial run commenced at the end of 2012. Commercial runs started from 27 June 2013 reducing the distance between Quazigund and Banihal by 17 km (from 35 km by road to 17.5 km by train).
The tunnel’s average elevation at 1,760 m (5,770 ft) is 440 m (1,440 ft) below the existing road tunnel. The rail tunnel will facilitate transportation during winters when inclement weather forces closure of the road tunnel and Srinagar-Jammu highway. Pir Panjal Railway Tunnel is India's longest and Asia's third longest railway tunnel (28 km long Taihang Tunnel in China is the longest and 21 km long Wushaoling Tunnel in Gansu, China is the second longest).
The north portal of the Banihal railway tunnel is atand the south portal is at .
Banihal railway station
Banihal railway station is situated at 1,702 m (5,584 ft) above mean sea level. It was commissioned on 26 June 2013 and passenger trains run from Banihal to Qazigund. The railway network in Kashmir from Banihal to Baramulla is now 137 km. Five trains run daily from Banihal to Baramulla. Until the 148 km Katra-Banihal section of Kashmir railway gets constructed in another five years in 2018, people can travel from Jammu Tawi or Udhampur to Banihal by road and take the train from Banihal to Srinagar.
- Encyclopædia Britannica Online. "Banihal Pass.". Archived from the original on 4 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-17.
- "Census of India 2001: Data from the 2001 Census, including cities, villages and towns (Provisional)". Census Commission of India. Archived from the original on 2004-06-16. Retrieved 2008-11-01.