The all-weather tunnel linking Banihal and Qazigund in south Kashmir is all set to be operationalised this month. Situated along the 270-km Jammu-Srinagar national highway, this tunnel will help reduce distance between Jammu and Srinagar by around 16 kms. According to the construction company, the tunnel is currently undergoing testing and commissioning process.
The 8.5 km long Banihal-Qazigund tunnel has been built at a cost of ₹2,100 crore. The construction of the tunnel started back in 2011, and took more than 10 years to complete the project. The work was delayed for several reasons, including unexpected land condition inside the tunnel.
The company in charge of construction has got permission for the trial run of traffic in the tunnel made with the Austrian tunneling method. “We are presently engaged in the testing commissioning process after the installation of all required equipment including ventilation and electric system,” Muneeb Tak, Chief Manager of Navayuga Engineering Company, was quoted by new agency PTI.
The tunnel has two tubes with a corridor between them at a distance of every 500 meters as emergency exit points. Muneeb Tak, chief manager of the construction company, said that the ventilation and electrical equipment in the tunnel is under testing. A total of 126 jet fans, 234 CCTV cameras, fire fighting system have been installed along the tunnel for safety and security reasons.
This tunnel will bypass Jawahar Tunnel and Shaitan Nala located on the existing route of the highway. Both these places are some of the biggest obstacles for traffic when the weather is bad. The national highway often gets shut down due to heavy snowfall in winters as the current highway is prone to snowstorms and avalanches. The new tunnel will bypass all these challenges and convert the route from Srinagar to Banihal into an expressway.
The new tunnel has been constructed 400 meters below the Jawahar Tunnel, the only all-weather road connecting the Kashmir with the country passes through the Banihal pass. The height of the highway near Jawahar Tunnel is 2,194 meters above sea level. The average elevation of the Banhial-Qazigund tunnel is 1790 meters.