Press Trust of IndiaBanihal, May 20:
Excavation work inside the 8.5-km-long Banihal-Qazigund tunnel along the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway was completed today with its twin tubes likely to be made operational by next year, a senior NHAI official said.
"The double tube excavation work inside the Banihal-Qazigund four-lane tunnel was completed after seven years The breakthrough was made today," NHAI Project Director Ghulam Qadir told PTI.
The existing Jawahar tunnel, under the Banihal pass, is at an elevation of 2,194 metres (7,198 feet) making it prone to avalanches, which have lead to closure and bottlenecks on the 265-km all-weather highway linking Kashmir to the rest of the country.
The new Banihal-Qazigund tunnel's elevation is 1,790 metres (5,870 feet), 400 metres below the Jawahar tunnel. This makes it less prone to avalanches, National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) officials said.
The work on the Rs 2,100-crore project started in June 2011 and on completion, the tunnel would reduce the distance between Banihal and Qazigund by 16 kms.
"The project is likely to be completed by next year," Qadir said.
The tunnel has two parallel tubes, one for each direction. Each tube will be seven metres (23 ft) wide with two lanes. One of the tubes was completed in February this year.
The tubes are interconnected by passages at every 500 metres for maintenance and emergency evacuation.
The tunnel will have forced ventilation for extracting smoke and stale air and infusing fresh air. It will have state-of-the-art monitoring and control systems for security.
It is expected that commuters using the tunnel will have to pay a toll.