A New Road To Srinagar: No Winter Shut-downs, 60 Km Less, Four Lanes
17 February 2007
The Indian Express
New Delhi: Nearly five decades after the Jawahar Tunnel was built to bring road connectivity to Srinagar, the government has given its go-ahead for a Rs 6,600-crore project to build another two-lane all-weather road along the existing one, with the longest road tunnel in the country. Recognised as India's most strategically important road, the NH-1A's four-laning was conceived as part of the North-South corridor project but had to be worked upon separately due to the high cost involved. Until now, the clearance was only for the Pathankot-Jammu section of the highway, which is already being executed. While, technically, it is four-laning of the existing road, the mountainous terrain would, in effect, translate into building a new two-lane road along a similar alignment. According to project details, the new road will bring down the distance between Jammu and Srinagar by over 60 km. The effort is to make it an all-weather road that will not have to be closed for weeks due to snowing in the winter, an annual problem with the current road. To address this, the National Highways Authority of India has paid special attention to the construction of the two tunnels on this road. The longest tunnel will be about 9.2 km while the other will be around 8 km. Both will come up near Banihal. In addition, 12 short tunnels and 54 bridges will be built to make this a state-of-the-art road. High-profile international consultants like Sceatouroute, involved with projects like the Mont Blanc tunnel and the second link under the English Channel, Austria's D-2 Consult that has done projects like Beavertrail Tunnel in the US, as well as other expert consultants have been roped in to build these tunnels on par with international standards. With all the clearances in the bag, the 324-km road has been broken into 12 packages for which the tender process is underway. The target for completion is 2010, raising hopes of improving connectivity to J&K as the Railways also is working overtime to complete the Baramulla rail link. All this, official sources say, meshes in with the larger strategic objective to qualitatively transform connectivity to conflict areas and borders. With China and Pakistan pushing ahead with renovation of the Karakoram Highway between Xinjiang and Northern Areas, the move to upgrade transportation links to the Kashmir Valley have finally gathered momentum.