Two crucial road link projects, part of the Rs10,000 crore project to upgrade the 300 km Jammu-Srinagar national highway to four lanes, started on Monday.
Laying the foundation stone of the Quazigund-Banihal tunnel at Quazigund on Monday, Union road transport minister CP Joshi said, “These projects will go a long way in bringing prosperity to the region.”
The projects include the technologically challenging 9-km road tunnel - India's longest so far - coming up between Chenani and Nashri in Patnitop, will reduce travel time between Jammu and Srinagar by half.
The second link is the 8.45-km long twin tunnel - where tunnels are being constructed side by side for incoming and outgoing vehicles - between Quazigund and Banihal near Anantnag. Both are part of the NHAI (National Highways Authority of India) projects, which are likely to be completed by 2015.
The twin tunnels built at a cost of Rs4,000 crore will reduce travel time between Jammu and Srinagar to 5-6 hours from the present 8-10 hours. The Quazigund- Banihal tunnel, will reduce the distance between Banihal and Srinagar by about 16 kms resulting in Rs27 crore savings every year on vehicle operation cost for daily truck traffic. “The capital expenditure of approx. Rs10,000 crore will generate employment in J&K,” said a NHAI official.
Parts of the existing highway has to be closed every winter due to heavy snowfall and avalanches cutting off Srinagar from Jammu and the rest of India. According to NHAI officials, on an average the road remains closed for 40 days in a year adversely affecting industry and business in the region. However, once the tunnels come up, the highways will remain operational throughout the year.