Old Banihal Cart Road

‘A guide for visitors to Kashmir’ (1898) by W. Newman mentions Banihal route to Kashmir but adds that it was meant only for the royal family. In addition, Walter Rooper Lawrence, the Land settlement officer in Kashmir from 1889 to 1895 in his book ‘Valley of Kashmir’ (1895) regrets that valley in not connected to plains via Banihal pass which was something achievable and desirable. The route linking Srinagar to Rawalpindi railhead, Jehlum Valley Cart road was already operational by 1890 using the help of Spedding & Co, a private army of civil engineers maintained by Charles Spedding. The modern route via Banihal must have first come up in between those years. The road called ‘new’ Banihal route  [BC Road, Banihal Cart Road] was finally completed in 1915 at a cost of about 40 lakh and opened to the public in around 1922. The main Kashmiri engineer for the Banihal project was Pt. Laxman Joo Tickoo. With the opening of the motor-able all weather road, the dreaded ‘Begar’ system, in which people would be forcefully made to act like coolies for people crossing the treacherous passes, died.

History of J&K Roads

1 The state of Jammu & Kashmir came into existence on March 16, 1846 under the treaty of Amritsar when it was purchased by Raja Gulab Singh from Britishers under this treaty for Seventy Five Lakh Rupees.
2 Public works Department first came into existence in Jammu & Kashmir State during the reign of Maharaja Partap Singh in the year 1885. the overall technical guidance and supervision were from British Engineers.
3 The first road in the J&K state named “Jehlum Valley Cart road” was started in the year 1881. The 92 miles long road stretch from Baramulla to Kohala was completed in 1890.
4 The first road ( 92 miles Baramulla Kohala Stretch of Jehlum Valley Cart road) was opened to wheeled traffic in Sept. 1890 by Maharaja Partap Singh.
5 The first entry of wheeled vehicle in the state was on 13th Sept. 1890 when Maharaja Partap Singh was driven on Baramulla Kohala road.
6 The first road to be brought to asphaltic specifications was Jammu city main road in the year 1934.
7 Banihal Cart road was started in the year 1901. The road was first opened to traffic from Jammu to Srinagar on 2nd May 1921 in connection with annual Darbar move.
8 Ladakh road became motorable up to Gagangir by the year 1941.
9 Batote Bhaderwah road was started in 1937 and completed in 1943.
10 Kathua Basholi road was started in 1937 and completed in 1940.
11 Udhampur Ramnagar road was started in 1937 and completed in 1940.
12 Mirpur Bhimber road via Chhapper was started in 1938 and completed in 1939.
13 Patnitop – Sanasar road was started in 1938 and completed in 1939.
14 Saria to Nowshera road was started in 1936 and completed in 1937.
15 Katra Reasi road was constructed in 1934.
16 Mirpur Kotli Poonch road was thrown open to traffic in 1933.
17 Doda – Kishtwar road was constructed in 1941.
18 In Kashmir Province, Valley road from Sadi Hazi to Drugjan was constructed in 1898-99. Durgjan bridge to Shalamar Garden road was constructed in 1896-97. The other important road including Tanga road from Srinagar to Gulamrg; Uri Hajipir road and Avantipur Islamabad road were constructed with a cost of Rs. 67174-00 ; Rs. 17230-00 and Rs. 53419-00 respectively.
19 Public Works Department in J&K headed by Chief Engineer belonging to J&K state came into existence in the year 1945.
20 A separate department of PWD Roads and Buildings J&K state came into existence in the year 1952.
21 The Public Works (Roads & Buildings) Department was bifurcated in two Divisions of Jammu Province and Kashmir Province with two Chief Engineers in the year 1958.


Srinagar-Jammu National Highway


Srinagar-Jammu National Highway is a part of NH 44 (former name NH 1A before re-numbering of all national highways) system and connects Srinagar (Kashmir Valley) with Jammu City. The distance between Jammu Tawi and Srinagar was 295 km[1] and is expected to reduce by about 30 km after commissioning of Chenani-Nashri Tunnelnew Banihal road tunnel and other small tunnels. These tunnels will also help keep the highway open during winter avalanches. It is one of the two road links (other being Mughal road) that connects Kashmir Valley with the rest of India. The traffic on the highway is controlled by two control rooms, one in Srinagar and other in Jammu.


The highway starts from Lal ChowkSrinagar and then passes through Pulwama districtAnantnag districtKulgam districtRamban districtUdhampur district and ends in Jammu city. The highway lies in Kashmir valley for first 68 km up to Qazigund and then passes through series of Mountains up to Jammu. The highway is famous for Patnitop Hill station, Jawahar Tunnel, Sweets of Kud and Tea of Sarmuli. The highway is often closed during winter days due to heavy snowfall in Kashmir valley and district Ramban. Many landslides and avalanches in the mountainous region lead to closure of highway during winters.[2]

The government of Jammu and Kashmir spends a lot of money every year on maintenance of the highway. At many sites, new roads with less number of road curves and tunnel are constructed which would not only provide comfort to the passengers but would also reduce the distance between the two cities.[3]

The railway line connecting Baramulla at the western end of Kashmir Valley with Banihal across the Pir Panjal Range of mountains has eased traffic on the highway as many people prefer to travel in the train up to Banihal because train travel is both economical and time-saving. The distance between Qazigund, north of the Pir Panjal mountains, and Banihal, south of Pir Panjal mountains, is 35 km by road compared to only 17 km by railway and the train takes hardly one-fourth time and fare. After reaching Banihal railway station, people take the road (mainly bus) to reach Udhampur or Jammu.

Traffic control rooms

Traffic on the highway is controlled by Traffic control rooms of two capitals.

  • The contact number ofTraffic control room Srinagar is 01942450022 and
  • The contact number ofTraffic control room Jammu is 01942459048.

These numbers help the people to get latest updates on the conditions of the highway and help them to postpone their journey in case of bad weather.[4]

“Nafrat ki deewaron ko gira kar hee dam lengey” (we will rest only after dismantling the walls of hatred), read signposts erected at crossings in Srinagar two years ago by the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP). No one would have thought that these politically motivated slogans would become reality one day. Today all roads seem to lead to Kaman Post, the last point at the Line of Control (LoC) in the Uri sector, on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road. The length of the road up to Kaman Post from Srinagar is 118.5 km.

The Srinagar-Jhelum Valley road, as it was known then, was the lone dependable connection between Kashmir and the rest of the world until the mid-1950s when the then Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad, initiated construction of the Jawahar Tunnel on the Srinagar-Jammu highway. Until then Srinagar was connected with Jammu by a smaller link called the Banihal Cart Road. When the tribesmen raided Kashmir in 1947, the only bridge near Kaman Post was damaged and repair work was taken up only recently by the armies of India and Pakistan.


National Highway 1D (NH 1D), also known as Srinagar-Leh Highway, is a National Highway entirely within the state of Jammu & Kashmir in North India that connects Srinagar to Leh in Ladakh. It is one of the only two roads that connect Ladakh with the rest of India, the other being Leh-Manali Highway. The Srinagar-Leh Highway was declared as National Highway in 2006

The old Central Asian trade route Srinagar-Leh-Yarkand was also known as the Treaty Road, after a commercial treaty signed in 1870[3] between Maharaja Ranbir Singh and Thomas Douglas Forsyth.

Weather conditions

Heavy snowfall on the highest passes can block traffic, cutting Leh from Srinagar for some six months each year. During springtime, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) plows snow and repairs damages caused by landslides.[5] Zoji La pass received reportedly some 18 m (59 ft) of snowfall in 2008.


For the most part, NH 1D runs through extremely treacherous terrain and follows the historic trade route along the Indus River, thus giving modern travelers a glimpse of villages which are historically and culturally important.[7] The road generally remains open for traffic from early June to mid-November. The total length of NH 1 is 422 km (262 mi).

The two highest passes on NH 1D include Fotu La at 4,108 m (13,478 ft) elevation and Zoji La at 3,528 m (11,575 ft) elevation.

Between Fotu La pass and Leh, a government checkpoint is stationed in the village of Khalatse.

Dras, located some 170 km (110 mi) from Srinagar at elevation of 3,249 m (10,659 ft), is the first major village over the Zoji La pass. The village is inhabited by a population of mixed Kashmiri and Dard origins, having a reputation of being the second coldest permanent inhabited spot in the world after Siberia, with temperatures dropping to −45 °C (−49 °F).


In the 17th and 18th centuries, the road was only a track, impassable even with ponies. Goods, mainly pashmina wool, were carried by porters from Yarkand and Tibet for Kashmir shawl industry.[4]

In the 19th century, the route was improved, allowing pony caravans to pass. This work was started after[4] Dogra General Zorawar Singh conquered Ladakh region from the Sikh Empire during 1836–1840 Trans-Himalayan campaign and princely state of Jammu and Kashmir was formed when the British sold Kashmir to maharaja Gulab Singh in 1846 Treaty of Amritsar.

In April 1873, the Kashmir government allocated 2,500 rupees annually for upkeep of the Treaty Road and associated Serais.

During the 1950s, tensions rose in Ladakh region. China secretly built a military road spanning some 1,200 km (750 mi) from Xinjiang to western Tibet, which was discovered by Indian in 1957 and confirmed by Chinese maps showing the road in 1958. The political situation eroded, culminating in 1962 in the Sino-Indian War.

The road on the Chinese side gave PLA an advantage as a reliable supply line, giving the Indian Army impetus to build a road for supply and mobilization of their own troops. The building started from Srinagar in 1962, reaching Kargil in two years. This was the basis of modern Srinagar-Leh Highway. Building the road was a hazardous task, given the challenging geographical location, and maintaining the road is still an unenviable task.

Restrictions on civilian traffic were lifted in 1974.

This highway was used as mobilization route by the Indian Army during Pakistani occupation of Kargil in 1999, known as Operation Vijay

Presented by: Er. M.A.Fazili FIE- Chairman IEIJ&KSC, IEI Council MemberIn All India Workshop on All Weather Roads in Hilly Regions on 29-30 April 2017at Utrakhand State Centre

About shahishaharyar

Chartered civil engineer,Fellow institution of engineers India, Member Indian road congress,Member American society of civil engineers, Presented over 70 papers in various seminars,published books over 36 on environment,history, sufi saints, genealogy,free lance writer, travelled in India and abroad.

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