Asia's longest tunnel road to be built in Kashmir

Asia's longest tunnel road to be built in Kashmir

NEW DELHI, DHNS: The Centre on Wednesday approved the Zojila pass tunnel project in Jammu and Kashmir to provide all-weather connectivity between Srinagar, Kargil and Leh.

Once the 14.5-km tunnel is completed, it will be Asia's longest single tube two-lane road.

The project was conceived 20 years ago to provide all-weather connectivity to the strategically important Kargil and Leh regions.

Zojila pass is situated at an altitude of 11,578 feet on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh National Highway which remains closed during winters (December to April) due to heavy snowfall and avalanches cutting off the Leh-Ladakh region from Kashmir.

The tunnel will be built from Baltal to Drass on the Srinagar-Leh highway.

Once the project is completed, the travelling time between Baltal to Drass will be reduced to 14 minutes from the current 3 and a half hours.

"The total capital cost of the project is Rs 6,808.69 crore, which includes the cost of land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation and other pre-construction activities, as well as the maintenance and operation cost of the tunnel for four years," a statement read.

The project will be implemented by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways through the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited.

"Connectivity to Leh at the moment is possible, at best, for 6 months because of the snow on the passes and threat of avalanches," Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari said.

IL&FS Transportation is lowest bidder for the Rs 4,899 crore for the project. The construction will start by May next year and will take seven years to complete.

Though IRB infrastructure won the project earlier, the government had ordered re-bidding following the allegations by Congress leader Digvijay Singh that norms were not followed while awarding the tender.

The ministry, however, had denied the charges and ordered rebidding with some modification in the tender documents.

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