10 July 2013
Last updated at 22:37 ET
An 18km (11-mile) railway line linking Qazigund to Banihal in Indian-administered Kashmir has been inaugurated by India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The new stretch has added to the 118km line that already runs through the valley, connecting Baramullah in the north with Qazigund in the south. Photographer Abid Bhat chronicles a railway that aims to bring the disputed region of Kashmir closer to the rest of India.
The ambitious train project aims to link the region with India's vast railway network, easing travel between Srinagar, the region's main city, and the rest of the country.
The train passes through an 11km multi-million dollar tunnel which cuts through the Pir Panjal mountain range. It is India's longest railway tunnel.
A 3m-wide road has been provided inside the tunnel for maintenance and emergency rescue and relief operations. The ride through the tunnel lasts for some 10 minutes.
The line could have a dramatic impact on people's lives. It is useful for students who will be able to travel to the summer capital, Srinagar, easily. It will also be a boon to those who need to get to the hospital in the capital city in a medical emergency.
Thousands of workers, headed by hundreds of civil engineers, toiled for years to lay the tracks and build bridges, and construct dozens of platforms.
The biggest challenge, officials said, was building the network through some of the areas worst affected by the last two decades of insurgency by militants trying to end Indian rule in Kashmir.
The eight-coach train has already become a hit with the locals. Many passengers say the journey is like a picnic on wheels.
The railway line passes through picturesque Himalayan ranges, farms, apple orchards and meadows.
At present, the link ends at Banihal in Jammu region which is yet to be connected to India's huge railway network. Officials say that is likely to happen in 2017 when the Banihal station will be linked with Udhampur, 121km away.