Work on the double tube 8.5 km Banihal-Qazigund tunnel along the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway 270 km is nearing completion and is likely to open for traffic in March.
Work on the Rs 2100 crore project was started by the Navyug Engineering Company in June 2011 and on completion it will reduce the road distance between Banihal in Jammu province and Qazigund in South Kashmir, 16 km from the current 35 km, and Jawahar will bypass the tunnel and the Shaitan Nala, which is prone to heavy snowfall and slippery conditions during winter.
The chief manager of the Navyug engineering company, Munib Tak told PTI, “The work within and outside is in the final stages and we are hopeful to throw it open to traffic in the last week of March.”
The existing road tunnel (Jawahar Tunnel – the gateway to Kashmir) under the Banihal Pass has become a bottleneck on the highway of about 265 km, the only weather road connecting Kashmir with the rest of the country, measuring 2,194 m. (7,198 ft) and limited traffic capacity.
The average height of the new tunnel is 1,790 meters (5,870 feet), 400 meters lower than the height of the existing Jawahar Tunnel, making it less affected by avalanches and fulfilling the dream of expressways for Srinagar and Banihal.
Mr. Tak said that the tunnel is a masterpiece of engineering and has been constructed using the Austrian tunnel method (ATM).
“The tunnel has been built on the Build Operate and Transfer Base System with state-of-the-art exhaust system to remove gas and bring in fresh air.”
He said that 126 jet fans, 234 CCTV modern cameras and a fire fighting system are being installed in both the tubes of the tunnel for which work is in progress.
“A corridor is built between the two tubes after every 500 meters inside the tank and it can be used for any emergency in either tube,” Mr. Tak said.