Atal Tunnel Project: The world’s longest highway tunnel above 10,000 feet, Rohtang Tunnel, connecting Manali to Leh, opened in October. Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Rohtang Tunnel, which is the highest altitude tunnel in the world and has strategic significance. The historic decision to construct this tunnel below the Rohtang Pass was taken on June 3, 2000, when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister.
The construction of the Rohtang Tunnel has been completed in a span of 10 years. The horseshoe-shaped single-tube, the double-lane tunnel has several firsts. It is also the country’s first tunnel to have an escape tunnel within the main tunnel because of the topography. This is also the first tunnel to deploy the Rowa flyer technology, which allows engineers to work at inverted levels.
Here are 10 interesting facts to know about the Atal Tunnel – the world’s longest underground highway tunnel connecting Manali with Leh.
1) The Union Government named the strategic tunnel under the Rohtang Pass in Himachal Pradesh after paying tribute to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on his 95th birth anniversary in December last year.
2) The decision to construct the Rohtang tunnel was taken on June 3, 2000, when Vajpayee was the Prime Minister. The feasibility study for the Tunnel was first carried out in 1990. The foundation of the access road to the tunnel’s south portal was laid on 6 May 2002. The first blast took place in 2010 and the last one in 2017.
3) The 9-km Atal Tunnel is constructed at an estimated cost of ₹3,500 crores.
4) Atal Tunnel in Lahaul Spiti’s Rohtang shortens the distance between Manali and Leh by 46 km and drives time by around five hours. It will also save crores of rupees in transport costs in the long run.
5) The tunnel will provide all-weather connectivity to remote border areas of Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh which otherwise remain cut-off from the rest of the country for about six months during winters.
6) Atal Tunnel will not only be important from a strategic point of view but will also promote tourism in Lahaul-Spiti, which will create employment opportunities.
7) The tunnel has a telephone facility every 150 meters, fire hydrant every 60 meters, emergency exit every 500 meters, cave diversion every 2.2 km, air quality monitoring on every one km, broadcasting system, and automatic incident detection system with CCTV cameras on every 250 meters.
8) The tunnel has consumed 14,508 metric tons of steel and 2,37,596 metric tons of cement and excavated out 14 million cubic meters of soil and rocks using the drill and blast technique for excavation and the new Austrian tunnel construction method for construction.
9) The South Portal (SP) of the Atal Tunnel is situated at a height of 3,060 meters at a distance of 25 km from Manali, while the North Portal (NP) of the tunnel is located near Lissing in the Lahaul Valley near village Telling, Sissu, at an altitude of 3,071 meters.
10) Atal Tunnel has been designed for a traffic density of 3000 cars per day and 1,500 trucks per day with a maximum speed of 80 km/hr. It has the state of the art electromechanical system including a semi transverse ventilation system.
The tunnel connects Manali to the Lahaul-Spiti valley throughout the year. Earlier the road was affected due to snowfall for about six months every year. The move is expected to improve activities as well as access to the border areas.