Editor's note: This article is being republished in the light of Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurating the Atal Tunnel in Rohtang.
The construction of Atal tunnel, the world`s longest highway tunnel above 10,000 feet, connecting Manali with Leh has finally been completed after 10 years.
As per news agency ANI, KP Purushothaman, chief engineer of the project, said on Wednesday that the tunnel will reduce the distance between Manali and Leh by 46 kilometres and save four hours of travel. The tunnel is equipped with CCTV cameras at every 60 metres and there are emergency exits at every 500 metres inside the tunnel. Fire hydrants too have been installed inside the tunnel in case of any fire incident, the report added.
As per a report by Times Now, the tunnel, which will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi this month is 8.8 kilometres long. It is built at an altitude of over 3,000 metres above sea level in the Pir Panjal ranges of Himachal Pradesh.
The report adds that the strategically crucial tunnel ensuring all-weather connectivity between Manali and Leh assumes an important position during the ongoing tensions between India and China along the Line of Actual Control. It will ensure that the route remains open and well connected, even during winter when heavy snowfall blocks the Rohtang pass.
Named after former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the tunnel is 10.5 metres wide and has a height of 5.52 metres. A car can go up to a speed of 80 kilometres inside the tunnel. Furthermore, a single tube bi-lane tunnel with a fire-proof emergency egress tunnel has been built into the main tunnel itself.
It is also the country's first tunnel to have an escape tunnel within the main tunnel which would provide an emergency exit in case of an untoward incident. The tunnel is also the first to deploy the Rowa flyer technology, which allowed engineers to work at inverted levels.
The 0riginal estimated time for the construction of the tunnel was less than six years. According to Satish Paretkar, director of hydro and underground business unit at Afcons, the company which built the tunnel, the delay in completion of the tunnel was mainly due to the 410-metre long brook, Seri Nalla.
Conceived way back in 1983 by the Indira Gandhi government, it was only in 2002 that the then Atal Bihari Vajpayee government gave its nod and laid the foundation for the approach road to the tunnel and the project began to move only in September 2009. The cost of the project has crossed Rs 2,500 crore.