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, this new tunnel on the Chenani-Nashri stretch of the highway will be able to cut the travel time between the twin capitals by more than two hours.
The state-of-the-art engineering marvel in the difficult Himalayan terrain is 10.89 km long. After missing several deadlines, the much-awaited tunnel will be open to public.
Today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave a green light to India's longest road tunnel on Jammu-Srinagar national highway. Here's everything you need to 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.
- With inlets every at 8 metres bringing fresh air into the main tube, and exhaust outlets every 100 m opening into the escape tube, the Chenani-Nashri tunnel is the world's sixth road tunnel with a transverse ventilation system.
- Tunnel has traffic control systems approching both north and south.
- To prevent diminution of vision as a result of change in the light while going in or coming out of the tunnel, the lighting inside has been adjusted at a gradient of luminous strength.
- Cars will pay Rs 55 on one-way fare and Rs 85 for to-and-fro journey and Rs 1,870 for a 'monthly pass', while bigger vehicles like pick-up and small buses will have pay Rs 90 for one-way and Rs 135 for to-and-fro toll. Buses and trucks will be charged Rs 190 for a single journey and Rs 285 for return.
- Commuters will also be able to use their mobile phones inside the tunnel. BSNL, Airtel and Idea have set up facilities inside the tunnel to carry signals.
- Reduction in traffic on the bypassed 41 km 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.
- The tunnel was scheduled to be completed by May 21, 2016. But due to unrest in the valley, the inauguration was postponed to September 25. Due to landslides on the Nashri side in Ramban district the formal opening was again delayed.