Congress president Sonia Gandhi would lay the foundation stone of the Rohtang tunnel in Himachal Pradesh’s Kullu district June 28, Steel Minister Virbhadra Singh said on Thursday.
"The stone of the Rohtang tunnel (near Manali) would be laid by UPA (United Progressive Alliance) chairperson Sonia Gandhi June 28," Singh told reporters here.
Defence Minister A.K. Antony and Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir's chief ministers Prem Kumar Dhumal and Omar Abdullah respectively would also be present on the occasion, he said.
The 8.80-km-long horseshoe shaped tunnel, under the Rohtang Pass (13,050 feet), will provide all-weather connectivity to the state’s Lahaul and Spiti districts that remain cut off from the rest of the country for more than four months owing to the closure of the pass due to heavy snowfall.
"Work on the construction of Rohtang tunnel will be completed by 2015," Border Roads Organisation's (BRO) chief engineer (Rohtang tunnel project) P.K. Mahajan said.
The BRO constructs and maintains road links along the international border.
The central cabinet committee on security in September 2009 approved Afcons Infrastructure, in collaboration with European firm Strabag, as the building contractor for the tunnel.
"The cabinet committee has approved Rs.1,495 crore for the project," Singh said.
The tunnel, some 300 km from Shimla, will reduce the distance by road between Manali and Leh in Jammu and Kashmir by 40 km. At present, the distance between the two is 475 km.
The Manali-Leh highway also plays an important role in the movement of the armed forces to the forward areas in Ladakh.