Once the tunnel is opened for the public, the road distance between Banihal in Jammu and Qazigund in the southern part of Kashmir will reduce by 16 kilometres.
Banihal-Qazigund Tunnel: The ambitious double-tube tunnel from Banihal to Qazigund along the 270 kilometre long Jammu-Srinagar NH is currently going through the process of testing and commissioning and it is likely to become operational in coming weeks, the construction company officials said on Sunday. The project has been built at a cost of Rs 2,100 crore. In June 2011, work on the 8.5 kilometre long tunnel was started. Once the tunnel is opened for the public, the road distance between Banihal in Jammu and Qazigund in the southern part of Kashmir will reduce by 16 kilometres. According to a PTI report, it will bypass Jawahar Tunnel as well as Shaitan Nalla, which during winters, is prone to slippery conditions and heavy snowfall and results in obstruction in the strategically important road connecting Kashmir to the rest of India.
Chief Manager of Navayuga Engineering Company, Muneeb Tak was quoted in the report saying that at present, the firm is engaged in the process of testing and commissioning after the installation of all equipment that was required including electric system and ventilation. According to the official, at the moment, the tunnel is trafficable and is going through the final stages before it is dedicated to the Union Territory’s people. Navayuga sources were quoted in the report saying that the ongoing work is likely to be completed within a few weeks and most likely, the tunnel will be thrown open to traffic by this month-end. A nod has also been received by the company for the trial run of the traffic through the tunnel.
According to Tak, the tunnel is a masterpiece of engineering. The infra project has been constructed with the Austrian Tunneling Method. Built on the Build Operate and Transfer base system, the ambitious tunnel project has been equipped with a state-of-the-art exhaust system in order to remove gas and bring in fresh air. The official further said that as many as 126 Jet fans, 234 CCTV cameras as well as a firefighting system have been installed in both tubes of the tunnel. Inside the tunnel, a corridor between two tubes after every 500 meters has been developed. This can be utilized in case of any emergency in either tube, the official added.
Traffic congestion was often witnessed on the existing road tunnel below the Banihal pass that affected movement on the highway, which is the only all-weather road connecting Kashmir with the rest of India, due to its elevation of 2,194 metres (7,198 feet) as well as limited traffic capacity. The average elevation of the newly constructed tunnel is 1,790 metres (5,870 feet), which is 400 metres lower than the existing elevation of the Jawahar tunnel. This would make it less prone to avalanches and will also fulfill the demand for an expressway between Srinagar and Banihal. In the past 10 years, the tunnel’s work was delayed for several reasons including unexpected land conditions inside the tunnel and other issues related to company workers and local landlords.