The foundation stone was recently laid for the construction of a 6.5km long tunnel along National Highway1 (NH1) which connects Leh and Srinagar. The tunnel, which gets its name from a Z formation along its path, will help motorists to avoid harsh conditions such as snowfall and avalanches which currently force the closure of roads to vehicular traffic for about seven months of the year.
Due to Leh being cut off from the entire country in severe winter, the army and civil authorities have to stock Ladakh with food, fuel and other necessities for these months. The only other road providing access to Leh ? the Leh-Manali highway ? is also open for only about four-and-a-half months due to snow. The two-lane tunnel which will be 10m wide with a 3.5m wide exit for use in emergencies, and will cost about
?2700 crore to construct, is expected to solve this acute problem. It will facilitate the movement of 1,000 vehicles an hour with a maximum speed of 80kmph. A second tunnel, the 13.8km long Zojila Tunnel, will be constructed about 20km away from the first tunnel and is estimated to cost ?5,500 crore. The foundation for this tunnel is likely to be laid in April next year.
These two tunnels, along with the two other tunnels under construction — the Chenani-Nashri and Banihal-Quazigund tunnels ? will cut down the travel time between Jammu and Ladakh to 30 hours from the present 50 hours. The project is being executed by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO).