The Atal tunnel near Manali at Rohtang Pass, is being given final touch before Prime minister Narendra Modi inaugurates it in late September.
The 8.8 kilometre long tunnel, which is world’s longest highway tunnel is built at 3000 meters above sea level between Himachal Pradesh’s Manali and Leh in Ladakh, will help to shorten the 474-kilometer distance between Leh and Manali.
The tunnel which is built under Pir Panjal range has been named after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who had announced this project. The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) was tasked with project.
This tunnel will reduce the distance between Manali and Leh by 46 kilometers and also reduce commute time. This tunnel will help the residents of both Lahaul and Spiti Valley which remain cut off from the nation during winters due to heavy snowfall.
The strategic advantage of the tunnel is that it will provide almost all-weather connectivity to the troops stationed in Ladakh.
The tunnel can ply up to 3,000 vehicles per day and the speed limit in the tunnel will be 80 km per hour. Apart from that an emergency tunnel has also been built under the main tunnel to provide emergency exit in face of any untoward incident because of which the main tunnel becomes unusable.
The project was to be completed by February 2015 but tunnel faced geological problems due to which it got delayed. The construction team faced fast flowing water from Seri Nullah which flowed on top of the tunnel, with which the construction got delayed as engineers tried to tackle the water flow. Another hurdle was the rock structures which slowed the progress of the tunnel.