On Sunday, April 2, 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated India’s longest road tunnel in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The 9.2 kilometre long Chenani-Nashri tunnel was flagged off by PM Modi in the presence of the Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, the state’s Governor NN Vohra, and Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. The PM and the other dignitaries took a walk inside the tunnel before taking a short ride in a jeep.
Boost To Connectivity And Tourism
Located at an altitude of about 1,200 metres on the national highway connecting Chenani in Udhampur district and Nashri in Ramban district (NH 44 – Jammu-Srinagar Highway), the tunnel comes as a relief to the people of Kashmir, who often find themselves snowed in and cut off during the winter months. It will improve connectivity in the state, giving a major boost to tourism and other economic activities. Food, vegetables, and other items can now be quickly transported to Kashmir from Jammu without spoilage.
Not only is the Chenani-Nashri tunnel the longest road tunnel of India, it is also the longest bi-directional road tunnel in the entire continent. Here are some notable facts about the tunnel –
- The 9.28-kilometre Chenani-Nashri tunnel is the longest in India. Rohtang Tunnel, connecting Lahaul and Spiti Valley, will be the second longest (8.8 kilometres long) when it is completed in 2019.
- Construction of the tunnel started in May 2011 and the project has cost the exchequer Rs 3,720 crore. The initial estimates suggested a cost of Rs 2,520 crore.
- The inauguration of the Chenani-Nashri tunnel will cut the distance between Jammu and Srinagar by 30 kilometres and will save two hours’ travel time.
- It is expected that fuel worth Rs 27 lakh will be saved by vehicles plying through NH 44 due to the construction of the tunnel (saving of Rs 99 crore a year).
- The technology used to construct the tunnel is the New Austrian Tunneling Method (NATM) or the Sequential Excavation Method (SEM).
- The tunnel is equipped with state-of-the-art security features including transverse ventilation systems, fire fighting systems, traffic control systems, SOS response systems, and FM connectivity.
- The Chenani-Nashri tunnel is India’s only tunnel (as yet) and the sixth tunnel in the world to boast of the transverse ventilation system, which allows fresh air to stream in every eight metres and makes way for exhaust tubes to be placed at intervals of 100 metres. This system is enabled and monitored by ABB software.
- Round-the-clock video surveillance is enabled by 124 closed-circuit TV cameras placed through the length of the tunnel. These will be constantly monitored and the control room will deploy the traffic police outside the tunnel to fine traffic violators.
- The tunnel was constructed by Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (IL&FS) Ltd.
- The tunnel bypasses Kud, Patnitop, and Batote, and is an environment-friendly move as it does not disturb the rich natural habitats in these regions.
- Leading telecom providers including BSNL, Airtel, and Idea have committed to set up mobile towers inside the tunnel enabling mobile connectivity through the distance.
The Chenani-Nashri tunnel is part of a project that intends to turn 286 kilometres of NH 44 into a four-lane highway. The tunnel is made up of two large tubes that run parallel. The main tunnel through which the traffic shall pass is 13 metres in diameter. The second tunnel is smaller (six metres in diameter) and is used to evacuate travellers in case of an emergency. The two tunnels are connected by passages at 29 different points along the tunnel. The smaller tunnel will also be used to tow away vehicles that have broken down and will have parking spots for drivers to use in case of an emergency.
The toll fee for use of this tunnel has been pegged at Rs 55 (one-way) and Rs 85 (return) for cars, Rs 90 (one-way) and Rs 135 (return) for minibuses, and Rs 190 (one-way) and Rs 285 (return) for buses and trucks. Cars that ply regularly will be able to obtain a monthly pass for Rs 1,870.
The inauguration of the tunnel comes in the midst of mass protests by separatist organisations in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The PM addressed a rally following the inauguration. He said that it was time for the state’s youth to choose between development and tourism on one hand and disruptive activities, such as stone pelting, on the other. The time has come for the young men and women of the state to step forward and make it a better place.