For every adventurist who long for a drive experience from Manali to Leh, Ladakh had remained out of bounds for about six months every year. Heavy snow deterred such adventure on wheels until this year. But not any more, thanks to Atal Tunnel.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday inaugurated the new tunnel that not only promises a Manali to Leh drive all through the year, but also reduce the travel time between the two cities massively.
The 9 km-long Atal Tunnel, the longest highway tunnel in the world, promises to reduce the distance by 46 kilometres and the time by about four to five hours. The speed limit for cars using the tunnel has been set at 80 kmph.
On Saturday, Modi had tweeted, “This is an iconic infrastructure project built at a height of 10,000 feet." He said the tunnel will help the region to develop. "The #AtalTunnel will solve a major problem of connectivity in the region. It has several salient features and will further 'Ease of Living' for local citizens. Will also join public programmes in Sissu in Lahaul Spiti and at Solang Valley," he tweeted on Saturday.
(Also read: All you need to know about Atal Tunnel)
Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had decided to construct the strategic tunnel below the Rohtang Pass on June 3, 2000. The foundation was laid on May 26, 2002. In 2019, the government decided to name the tunnel after former PM Vajpayee to honour the contribution made by him.
The tunnel is yet another example of the Border Roads Organisation’s excellence in making and maintaining roads at such altitudes. It took them 10 years to give the tunnel its final shape. The BRO had faced several challenges while building the tunnel. It had to overcome major geological, terrain and weather challenges that included the most difficult stretch of the 587-metre Seri Nalah Fault Zone.
The tunnel has constructed with 12,252 metric tonnes of steel, 1,69,426 metric tonnes of cement and 1,01,336 metric tonnes of concrete. BRO had to excavate 5,05,264 metric tonnes of soil and rocks by adopting the latest Austrian tunneling method for construction.
KP Purushothaman, Chief Engineer at Border Roads Organisation, was quoted by ANI saying, "This is a very proud moment not only for BRO but for the whole country. The hard work put in by BRO in the last 10 years is reaching the final stage. This tunnel is an example of Atmanirbhar Bharat."
The tunnel begins from Dhundhi, a place 25 kms away from Manali, and ends at near Teling village in Lahaul valley. The horseshoe-shaped, double-lane tunnel has an overhead clearance of more than 5 metres, which means even big and heavy trucks can comfortably pass through it. The tunnel can handle around 3,000 cars and 1,500 trucks every day.
(With inputs from agencies)