Manali: Atal Tunnel at Rohtang, the world’s longest motorable tunnel at an altitude of over 10,000 ft is complete.
Completed at a cost of Rs 3,200 crore against the sanctioned budget of Rs 4,083 crore, it will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The 9.02 km long tunnel, which is named after former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, passes under the Rohtang Pass in Eastern Pir Panjal range on the Leh-Manali highway.
Saving over four hours of travel time by reducing the distance between Manali in Himachal Pradesh and Leh in Ladakh by 46 kms, the tunnel will be crucial in allowing mobility of defence forces in case of any prolonged standoff with China with whom India is already facing border issues.
Apart from becoming a tourist destination, it will providing much-needed year-round connectivity to residents of Lahaul valley that used to be cut off from the rest of the country for nearly six months due to heavy snowfall. Altitudes in Ladakh range from “high to super-high altitude” and there is a lot of snowfall – up to 40 feet after November.
Engineers are re-testing the automated lighting and ventilation systems, fire hydrants, pumps, phones and various sensors for fitting inside the tunnel before the inauguration, reported a national English daily. There are fire hydrants at every 60 metres, emergency exit tunnels at every 500 metres, turning cavern every 2.2km and air quality monitoring every 1km, Besides the emergency telephone booths at regular intervals, there is a broadcasting system and automatic incident detection system with CCTV cameras every 250 metres.
The 4G internet network inside the tunnel is working well. Unlike other tunnels, where travellers lose mobile network, this tunnel provides uninterrupted BSNL mobile network with high-speed internet connectivity. The tunnel, which is 10.5 metres wide and has a height of 5.52 metres, has a footpath of 1 metre on both sides. With a maximum speed of 80kmph, the tunnel is expected to see traffic of 3,000 cars and 1,500 trucks a day.
Though the idea to have a tunnel between Manali and Leh was conceived by Indira Gandhi government in 1983, it was Atal Behari Vajpayee government in 1983 who declared to construct it. The foundation stone of the tunnel was laid on June 28, 2010.