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The Tunnel Conceived by the Vajpayee Govt Sees the Light of the Day, Becomes World’s Longest Highway Tunnel

longest highway tunnel

On October 3, 2020 Prime Minister Narendra Modi is going to inaugurate the Atal tunnel at Rohtang, and it will be the longest highway tunnel in the world.

The 9.2 kms highway tunnel will connect the Spiti valley with Manali throughout the year. Previously, Lahaul-Spiti valley was accessible only for six months as snowfall used to cut-off the route via Rohtang Pass. It reduces the road distance by 46 Kms between Manali and Leh, cutting travel time by about 4 to 5 hours.

While the tunnel primarily caters to civilians by connecting places, this magnanimous piece of infrastructure is strategically important as well. With border infrastructure being strengthened to move military personnel and equipment to Himalayan heights, the Atal tunnel helps in prior stage, that is to ensure continuous supply till Leh.

Remembering Atal Behari Vajpayee

The tunnel is named after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The Modi cabinet took this decision in a meeting on December 24, 2019 as it was in Vajpayee’s period as the Prime Minister that this tunnel was envisioned and sanctioned.

The historic decision to construct a strategic tunnel below the Rohtang Pass was taken on June 3, 2000. The foundation stone for the Access Road to the South Portal of the tunnel was laid on May 26, 2002.

The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) worked relentlessly to overcome major geological, terrain and weather challenges that included the most difficult stretch of the 587-metre Seri Nalah Fault Zone. The breakthrough from both ends was achieved on October 15, 2017.

The Salient Features of the Tunnel

Atal Tunnel has been designed for traffic density of 3,000 cars per day and 1,500 trucks per day with max speed of 80 km/hr. It has the state-of-the-art electromechanical system including semi transverse ventilation system, SCADA controlled firefighting, illumination and monitoring system.

The other features are:

  • Tunnel entry barriers at both portals.
  • Telephone connections at every 150 Mtrs for emergency communication.
  • Fire hydrant mechanisms at every 60 Mtrs.
  • Auto incident detection system with CCTV cameras at every 250 Mtrs.
  • Air quality monitoring at every 1 Km.
  • Evacuation lighting / exit signs at every 25 Mtrs.
  • Broadcasting system throughout the tunnel.
  • Fire rated Dampers at every 50 Mtrs.
  • Cameras at every 60 Mtrs.