Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday will inaugurate the strategically important Atal Tunnel in Himachal Pradesh, which will connect Solang Valley near Manali to Sissu in Lahaul and Spiti district.
The 9.02-km tunnel — the longest highway tunnel in the world above the height of 3,000 metres — cuts through a mountain west of the Rohtang La and will shorten the distance between Solang Valley and Sissu by around 46 km and will take around 15 minutes to cover. Earlier, it would take nearly 4 hours to travel between the two points.
The double-laned tunnel — one of the longest road tunnels in the country — can handle around 3,000 cars and 1,500 trucks per day, with a maximum speed of 80 km per hour.
Calling it an “engineering marvel”, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh reached the site on Friday to review the preparations, and tweeted, “Visited the ‘Atal Tunnel, Rohtang’ to review the preparations for the inaugural ceremony to be held tomorrow. PM Shri Narendra Modi will dedicate the Tunnel to the nation. This 9.02 Km long ‘Engineering Marvel’ will connect Manali to Lahaul-Spiti valley throughout the year.”
The tunnel has the potential to link Ladakh to Manali and Chandigarh throughout the year, as it would bypass Rohtang Pass, which is snowed in through the winter months. However, passes like Thanglang La and Baralacha La can still cut off road access to Leh in the winters.
Named after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, construction on the tunnel took nearly a decade and cost around Rs 3,200 crore. The tunnel has been constructed with 15,000 tonnes of steel, of which the Steel Authority of India provided 9,000 tonnes.
Union Steel Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Friday said, “This tunnel will be of great significance to the locals as well as for strategic movements. It will boost connectivity of the Spiti Valley. This is an achievement considering the very challenging conditions of the construction site and weather.”
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