PM Modi Inaugurates World’s Longest Highway Tunnel at Himachal, India

After a decade of sheer hard work by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday inaugurated the strategic Atal Tunnel, one of the world’s most challenging and a marvel of engineering motorways, in the Himalayas that will also bring the infantry combat vehicles closer to the Line of Actual Control.

Donning a BRO cap, Modi interacted with BRO Director General Lt Gen Harpal Singh, who explained to him through a photo exhibition, about the hurdles the agency faced during the tunnel excavation. Singh explained in detail the challenges encountered during the heavy water influx of Seri rivulet.

He explained how taming the glacial-fed Seri rivulet inside the tunnel was one of the biggest challenges for the engineers. It’s a tributary of the Beas river and the tunnel alignment is crossing beneath the rivulet.

After opening the tunnel, Modi drove through the tunnel and took a look at the features of the tunnel, including the escape route in case of emergency.

The 9.02 km-long horseshoe-shaped single-tube, two-lane tunnel — the world’s longest motorable tunnel at over 3,000 metre above the sea level, came up under the 3,978 metre Rohtang Pass in the Pir Panjal range some 30 km from here in Himachal Pradesh.

The tunnel connects this tourist resort to the Lahaul Valley throughout the year. Earlier, the valley was cut off for about six months each year owing to heavy snowfall and snapping of road link via the Rohtang Pass.

Earlier, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur welcomed him along with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Union Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur upon his arrival at the Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE} helipad near here.

Both Rajnath Singh and Thakur reached here a day earlier.

“The all-weather tunnel can take any military traffic, even armoured vehicles,” a BRO official aware of the development said.

However, the all-weather road to forward areas of Ladakh requires more tunnels, either at Shikunla or at the high passes located on the 475-km Manali-Leh road for round-the-year connectivity.

The Rohtang tunnel, a dream of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and named after him posthumously, was completed after 10 years of by the BRO with an outlay of Rs 3,200 crore.

Tunnel project Director Colonel Parikshit Mehra said the tunnel has manoeuvred one of the largest shear zones in the history of highway tunneling.

“A length of 587 m across the Seri-nullah or rivulet zone took us four years and the balance 8.4 km took almost the same time,” he said.

Colonel Mehra, who did a twin master’s degree in tunnel engineering, including one from Austria, said during excavation the temperature inside the tunnel rose to 55 degrees Celsius before breakthrough and it hardly crossed 20 degrees after that.

On its vulnerability, he said, “The deep tunnels in general are not vulnerable to the tectonic effects since they move as a rigid body with shock waves.

“However portal buildings are vulnerable to earthquakes and in our case earthquake loads have been considered in design.”

The decision to keep the main and escape tunnel within the same opening was taken with a viewpoint not to disturb a large extent of rock mass and restrict excavation to a specific area only, Colonel Mehra said.

Globally, the escape tunnel is built separately along the main tunnel.

And no wonder the working conditions were relatively short and tough too owing to climatic conditions. “The north portal of the tunnel was accessible only for five-six months in a year,’ he said.

The tunnel construction, a blessing for the people of landlocked Lahaul-Spiti district who mark a new beginning in their lives this winter. The district was abandoned on numerous occasions, primarily due to the complex geology that included fracture zones and fault lines.

The tunnel will shorten the distance between this Himachal Pradesh tourist resort and Keylong, the headquarters of Lahaul-Spiti, by 46 km, shortening the travel time by nearly three hours.

With a maximum speed limit of 80 km per hour, the tunnel is expected to see traffic of 3,000 cars and 1,500 trucks a day.

The tunnel has consumed 12,252 metric tonne steel, 1,69,426 metric tonne cement and 1,01,336 metric tonnes of concrete, and excavated out 5,05,264 metric tonnes of soil and rocks by adopting the latest Austrian tunnelling method for construction.

The construction contract of the tunnel has been awarded to Strabag-Afcons, a joint venture between India-based Afcons Infrastructure and Austria’s Strabag.

Chandigarh-based SASE has designed mechanical structures to ensure the safety of motorists by countering avalanches on both ends of the tunnel that remain under snow even during peak summer.

Engineers of SASE, a Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) laboratory, said self-escape snow galleries have been erected for the safety of motorists after studying the local dynamics of avalanches like force and velocity.

The completion of the Atal tunnel is a key element in the Defence Ministry’s attempts to make the entire 475 km-long Manali-Keylong-Leh highway, used by the armed forces to reach forward areas in Ladakh bordering China and Pakistan, motorable almost round the year.

The south portal of the tunnel is located at a distance of 25 km from Manali at an altitude of 3,060 metres, while the tunnel’s north portal is located near Teling village in Sissu in the Lahaul Valley at an altitude of 3,071 metres.

The double lane tunnel with a roadway of eight metres has an overhead clearance of 5.525 metres.

It is 10.5-metre wide and has a 3.6 x 2.25 metres fire proof emergency egress tunnel built into the main tunnel itself.

The tunnel has ample safety features built into it. The key safety features include the telephone connections at every 150 metres for emergency communication, fire hydrant mechanisms at every 60 metres, auto incident detection system with CCTV cameras at every 250 metres and air quality monitoring at every one km.

The historic decision to construct the strategic tunnel was taken on June 3, 2000 when the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister.

The foundation stone for the access road to the south portal of the tunnel was laid on May 26, 2002.

The breakthrough from both ends of the tunnel was achieved on October 15, 2017.

Atal Tunnel will connect youth with job opportunities: PM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said that the newly-inaugurated all-weather Atal Tunnel in Himachal Pradesh, that links Manali to the Lahaul-Spiti valley, will bring employment opportunities for the youth of the entire region.

After a decade of sheer hard work of the Border Roads Organisation, Prime Minister Modi inaugurated a 9.02 km-long horseshoe-shaped two-lane tunnel earlier on Saturday. It is one of the world’s most challenging tunnels and a marvel of engineering motorways.

Addressing the public from the snow-clad Sissu town of Lahaul valley, the Prime Minister said that the tunnel will boost tourism and ease travelling. “It will connect the youth of this entire region with many employment opportunities. Some people will run homestays, guesthouses, shops or become guides. Handicrafts, fruits and medicines will also get a boost.”

Modi said that with the construction of the tunnel, the farmers of the region and people associated with horticulture, cattle-rearers, students and traders will be benefitted.

“Earlier, people in areas like Lahaul-Spiti and others were left to struggle on their own. In recent years, work is being done with new thoughts,” he said, in an apparent dig at the erstwhile UPA government.

Besides this, the completion of the Atal Tunnel is a key element in the Defence Ministry’s attempts to make the entire 475 km-long Manali-Keylong-Leh highway, used by the armed forces to reach forward areas in Ladakh bordering China and Pakistan, motorable almost round the year.

After inaugurating the tunnel, the Prime Minister had said the majestic Atal Tunnel, beneath the lofty Rohtang Pass in Himachal Pradesh’s Kullu district, would give new strength to India’s border infrastructure.

“It is an example of world-class border connectivity. There have been demands to improve border infrastructure but for a long time, such projects either couldn’t get out of the planning stage or got stuck midway,” Modi said.

Considered a wonder of human perseverance, the Rohtang tunnel, a dream of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and named after him posthumously, was completed after 10 years of hard work by the BRO with an outlay of Rs 3,200 crore.

Atal Tunnel gives new identity to region: Thakur

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur on Saturday said the dedication of the Atal Tunnel, beneath the majestic Rohtang Pass, has ushered a new era of development and given a new identity to the region.

It has ensured all-weather connectivity to the Lahaul Valley and made traffic movement easy, which would prove a milestone in the development of tourism in the state, he said.

Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated the Atal Tunnel at its south portal near Manali to the nation.

Later at a public meeting in Solang, Thakur welcomed Prime Minister Modi and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and thanked them for the inauguration of the tunnel.

The Chief Minister reminded the Prime Minister of his paragliding adventures in the late 1990s.

He said the Solang Nallah has emerged as one of the favourite tourist destinations in the past few years. Dedication of the Atal Tunnel will boost tourism activities in the area and strengthen the economy of the State, he added.

The Chief Minister said that even in the wake of Covid-19, the Prime Minister made an effort to visit Himachal Pradesh personally to inaugurate this tunnel, which simply showed his love and affection for Himachal Pradesh and its people.

He said Covid-19 prevented the state from organising an impressive function which could have been attended by the people from across the state but all arrangements have been made to telecast this programme live in all 3,226 gram panchayats of the state.

The Atal Tunnel, named after late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, is the longest highway tunnel in the world at an altitude of over 3,000 metres.

Atal tunnel will prove to be a major boon for region: Amit Shah

Calling the inauguration of the ‘Atal Tunnel’ a historic day, Union Home Minister Amit Shah described it as an engineering marvel and said “it will prove to be a major boon for the entire region”.

He expressed gratitude to Prime Minister Narendra Modi who inaugurated the all-weather 9.02 km horseshoe shaped two-lane ‘Atal Tunnel’ in Himachal Pradesh, that links Manali to the Lahaul-Spiti valley, on Saturday.

In a series of tweets Amit Shah said, “A historic day for the entire country as the vision of Bharat Ratna Atal Bihari Vajpayee ji comes true! Congratulations to BRO for working relentlessly on this unprecedented project.”

“As the longest highway tunnel in the world, Atal Tunnel will reduce the travel time between Leh and Manali by 4-5 hours. Being an all-weather tunnel, it will also connect Lahaul-Spiti valley with the rest of the country throughout the year which used to be cut off for months earlier,” Shah said.

“Atal Tunnel will prove to be a major boon for the entire region. People will now have access to better healthcare facilities, business opportunities and essential items. It will also strengthen our defence preparedness and generate employment by giving impetus to the tourism sector.”

The 9.02 kilometre long tunnel is built with ultra-modern specifications in the Pir Panjal range of the Himalayas at an altitude of 3,000 mtrs (10,000 feet) from Mean Sea Level. It has been designed for a traffic density of 3,000 cars and 1,500 trucks per day, with a maximum speed of 80 km per hour. It has state of the art electromechanical systems including semi transverse ventilation, SCADA controlled fire fighting, illumination and monitoring systems. The tunnel also has ample safety features built into it.

The decision to construct a strategic tunnel below the Rohtang Pass was taken on June 3, 2000 when late Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister. The foundation stone for the Access Road to the South Portal of the tunnel was laid on May 26, 2002.

The Union Cabinet under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi had decided on December 24 last year to name the Rohtang Tunnel as the Atal Tunnel to honour the contribution made by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

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Arushi Sana is the Co Founder of NYK Daily. She was a Forensic Data Analyst previously employed with EY (Ernst & Young). She aims to develop a global community of knowledge and journalism par excellence through this News Platform. Arushi holds a degree in Computer Science Engineering. She is also a Mentor for women suffering from Mental Health, and helps them in becoming published authors. Helping and educating people always came naturally to Arushi. She is a writer, political researcher, a social worker and a singer with a flair for languages. Travel and nature are the biggest spiritual getaways for her. She believes Yoga and communication can make the world a better place, and is optimistic of a bright yet mysterious future!

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