India's longest road tunnel connecting Chenani and Nashri in Jammu and Kashmir will open to traffic later this month. This engineering marvel is being called the 'Tunnel of Hope' in Kashmir. The structure ensuring all-weather connectivity will reduce the distance between Jammu and Kashmir by 38 km.
According to sources in Union Road Transport and Highways Ministry, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) has indicated that PM Narendra Modi is likely to inaugurate the project. Jammu and Kashmir Police have reviewed security at the venue and are analysing arrangements required.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had laid the foundation stone for this tunnel which was scheduled to be completed by August 2015. The tunnel, across a high seismic zone, has cost over Rs 2,500 crore.
Here are five of the other longest road tunnels in the world.
1) Laerdal tunnel, Norway
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This is the longest road tunnel in the world -- 24.51 km. In June 1992, the Norwegian Parliament had decided to construct this road tunnel to connect Laerdal with Aurland in Sogn og Fjordane, Norway. The Laerdal tunnel is the final link of the extension of a ferry-free, reliable road link between the two largest cities in Norway— Oslo and Bergen.
Build at a cost of $113.1 million, the construction began in 1995 and the tunnel opened in 2000. Equipped with emergency telephones and fire extinguishers, a ventilation air exhaust located at about 10 km from the Aurland end of the tunnel purifies the air.
2) Zhongnanshan Tunnel, China
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The world's second longest road tunnel is 18.04 km long. Passing under Zhongnan mountain, it opened in January 2007, becoming part of the Xi'an-Ankang Highway between Changan and Zhashui counties. Build at a cost of $410 million, the tunnel plays an important role in reducing travelling time in Shaanxi province—it cuts the drive from Xi'an to Zha Shui County Town from three hours to 40 minutes.
The tunnel is equipped with lights that show different colours and patterns to make drivers feel more alert, images of clouds projected over the ceiling at certain sections in order to reduce the eye strain of drivers and three ventilation shafts.
3) St. Gotthard tunnel, Switzerland
The 16.9 km long road tunnel runs from Göschenen in the canton of Uri at its northern portal, to Airolo in Ticino to the south. The tunnel which had opened on September 5, 1980 faced an unfortunate mishap on October 24, 2001 when the collision of two trucks caused a fire and killed 11. The smoke and gases produced by fires was the main cause of death. The tunnel was closed for two months after the accident and was reopened only on December 21, 2001.
4) Arlberg, Austria
The 13.97 km long road tunnel started construction on July 5, 1974 and opened on December 1, 1978. Equipped with four ventilation centres, 12 vents, 43 cameras for traffic monitoring and 16 niches and eight escape routes, the tunnel is designed for 1,800 vehicles per hour. The tunnel is currently under renovation to replace outdated equipment and further improve the safety standards.
5) Hsuehshan Tunnel, Taiwan
This 12.94 km long road tunnel in Taiwan opened on June 16, 2006. It connects Taipei and Yilan counties of Taiwan thus reducing the journey time between the two places from two hours to less than 40 minutes. Besides two FM channels that keep the journey pleasant and safe, automated enforcement cameras continuously monitor the speed, tailgaters and lane-changers throughout the length of the tunnel.