The escape tunnel which is 6.5 km long is ready to be partially opened for controlled traffic around the month of November, giving Sonmarg connectivity to Srinagar, as also maintaining supplies through the winter season for the first time.
Union Minister Nitin Gadkari is all set to become the first person to travel in the all-weather escape tunnel of Z-Morh main tunnel, connecting Srinagar and Sonmarg. The Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways, on Tuesday, will visit the Z-Morh main tunnel project site for an inspection. The escape tunnel which is 6.5 km long is ready to be partially opened for controlled traffic around the month of November, giving Sonmarg connectivity to Srinagar, as also maintaining supplies through the winter season for the first time. At 8,960 feet, tourist destination Sonmarg is covered in snow during the winter season, forcing locals to shift to Srinagar side. During winter days, all commercial activity comes to a halt, besides connectivity on Srinagar-Leh highway gets blocked due to avalanches, according to an IE report.
According to officials, the strategically crucial Z-Morh tunnel will ensure that Sonmarg town in Jammu & Kashmir remains connected as well as supplies are maintained all year round. G S Kambo, Executive Director of the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited of the MoRTH, was quoted in the report saying that the tunnel would be completed by early next year, well ahead of its scheduled deadline of December 2023. Last week, the main tube’s connectivity was achieved, while during summer this year, the escape tunnel was cleared. For the valley of Kashmir, the permanent connectivity to Sonnarg town is a first. The tunnel project is being developed at a cost of Rs 2,300 crore.
Beyond Sonmarg town in J&K, the 13.5 kilometre long Zojila tunnel, which will provide all-weather connectivity between Srinagar and Ladakh, is also expected to be completed ahead of its scheduled target of 2026, officials said. According to Kambo, the tunnel has vertical shafts, which enable opening of many fronts, so work can be done at multiple places simultaneously. Besides, the work is going at a very good pace – like 30-40 metre excavation as well as a couple of blasts and tunneling are being completed every day.
The Zojila tunnel project, worth Rs 4,600 crore, is being executed by Megha Engineering and Infra Limited, while the Z-Morh tunnel is under execution by engineering firm Apco, according to the report. On Tuesday, the Union Minister will also review the progress of the Zojila tunnel. The Zojila tunnel project is an all-weather alternative to Zojila pass, which closes down during winter season, halting all transport, including troop movement as well as critical Army supplies between Ladakh and Kashmir. The Zojila tunnel will solve that issue. The bi-directional tunnel is the longest in Asia at more than 11,000 feet, the report added.