Every winter, National Highway 44, the only road link connecting Kashmir to the rest of the country witnesses frequent closures due to snowfall and landslides. And on days when it is open, there is one-way traffic to prevent snarls on the narrow winding road.
Bringing some respite to thousands of commuters in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, a new tunnel on the Chenani-Nashri stretch of the highway may soon be able to cut travel time between the twin capitals by more than two hours.
Built in a record time of four years, the state-of-the-art engineering marvel in the difficult Himalayan terrain is 10.89 km long.
On April 2, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to give green-light to India's longest tunnel on Jammu-Srinagar national highway. Here's what we know about the tunnel:
- Built at a cost of Rs 2,519 crore, the main bi-directional tunnel consists of 9.35 metre wide carriageway with a 5 metre vertical clearance.
- Along with the main tunnel, there is a parallel escape tunnel for emergencies.
- The are 29 cross passages at every 300 metres connecting the two tubes.
- The 10.89 km long tunnel project in J&K connects Udhampur with the Ramban district of Jammu and Kashmir. It is part of the proposed widening of NH-44 from Jammu to Srinagar.
- With the new tunnel, an estimated Rs 27 lakh of fuel will be saved per day.
- Tunnel has traffic control systems approching both north and south.
- Reduction in traffic on the bypassed 41 Kms will help preserve ecology of the sensitive region.
- The tunnel boasts an integrated tunnel control system with a fully transverse ventilation system.
- Tunnel is equipped with video surveillance, power supply, SOS call box, fire fighting and incident detection.
- It is meant to avoid stretches of National Highway 44 prone to avalanches and landslides. Patnitop, Kud, and Batote towns will be bypassed.
- The tunnel has been built in a record time of four years.
- Large scale deforestation and tree cutting avoided.
- This tunnel is part of the four-lanning north-south corridor project and its contract was awarded to IL&FS by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI).
- The other major 8.5 km long tunnel connecting Banihal with Qazigund, however, will operate later in 2018.