Earlier today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated to the nation the world’s longest Highway tunnel – Atal Tunnel – at its south portal in Manali. The 9.02km-long tunnel, built below the Rohtang Pass, connects Manali to the Lahaul-Spiti valley throughout the year. Earlier, the valley was cut off for about 6 months each year due to heavy snowfall. Other than ensuring all-weather connectivity throughout the year, the tunnel reduces the road distance by 46km between Manali and Leh and also the time travelled by about 4 to 5 hours.
The Atal Tunnel has been designed for a traffic density of 3,000 cars per day and 1,500 trucks per day with a maximum speed of 80kph.
The tunnel, which has ample safety measures built into it, has been built with ultra-modern specifications in the Pir Panjal range of Himalayas at an altitude of 3000 Mtrs (10,000 Feet) from the Mean Sea Level (MSL). It has state-of-the-art electromechanical systems including semi-transverse ventilation, SCADA-controlled fire fighting, illumination and monitoring systems.
The South Portal (SP) of Atal Tunnel is located at a distance of 25km from Manali at an altitude of 3060 metres, while the North Portal (NP) of the tunnel is located near village Teling, Sissu, in Lahaul Valley at an altitude of 3071 metres. It is a horseshoe-shaped, single tube double-lane tunnel with a roadway of 8 metres and has an overhead clearance of 5.525 metres
High on safety
The tunnel has ample safety features built into it. Some of the key safety features are”
- Tunnel entry barriers at both portals.
- Telephone connections at every 150 metres for emergency communication.
- Fire hydrant mechanisms at every 60 metres.
- Auto incident detection system with CCTV cameras at every 250 metres
- Air quality monitoring at every kilometre.
- Evacuation lighting / exit signs at every 25 metres.
- Broadcasting system throughout the tunnel.
- Fire rated Dampers at every 50 metres
- Cameras at every 60 metres.
The decision to construct a strategic tunnel below the Rohtang Pass was taken on June 3, 2000 when the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister. The foundation stone for the access road to the South Portal of the tunnel was laid on May 26, 2002.
Prime Minister Modi travelled in the tunnel from the South Portal to the North Portal and also visited the emergency egress tunnel built into the main tunnel itself. He also witnessed a pictorial exhibition on ‘The Making of Atal Tunnel’ on the occasion.
In his address, the Prime Minister termed the day as historic as it only fructifies the vision of the former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee but also the decades-old wish and dream of crores of people from the region.
He said Atal Tunnel is going to be a lifeline for a large part of Himachal Pradesh as well as the new Union Territory of Leh-Ladakh and would reduce the distance between Manali and Keylong by 3-4 hours. He added that now parts of Himachal Pradesh and Leh-Ladakh will always be connected with the rest of the country and would witness speedier economic progress. He said farmers, horticulturalists and youth will now also have easy access to the capital of Delhi and other markets.
The Prime Minister said that such border connectivity projects will also aid the security forces in ensuring regular supplies to them and also in their patrolling. The Prime Minister lauded the efforts of the engineers, technicians and workers who risked their lives in making this dream come true. He congratulated the Border Road Organisation (BRO) and Indian engineers for achieving the feat of building the tunnel in the most difficult terrain of Pir Panjal ranges in Himachal. He said Atal Tunnel is also going to give new strength to India's border infrastructure and would be proof of world-class border connectivity.