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  • Raghav Sand

Light at the end of the tunnel

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the ‘Atal tunnel’ at Rohtang on the morning of Saturday, ie, October 3; with its 9.02-km length, it is said to be the longest highway tunnel in the world at 10171 feet. It is set in the Pir Panjal range of the Himalayas. The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) had been engaged for the construction work. The tunnel also reduces the road distance between Leh and Manali by a significant 46 kilometres, causing the travel time to fall by four to five hours; it will save crores of rupees in transport costs.

The tunnel was earlier called Rohtang Tunnel but was renamed as Atal Tunnel on December 24 , 2019, to honour the former PM, during whose tenure the decision to construct the tunnel had been taken.

Location of the tunnel

The south portal of Atal Tunnel is located at a distance of 25 km from Manali at an altitude of 3,060 metres, while the north portal of the tunnel is located near village Teling, Sissu, in Lahaul Valley at an altitude of 3,071 metres. Once thrown open, the tunnel will provide all-weather connectivity to remote border areas of Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh which otherwise remain cut-off from the rest of the country for about six months during winters.

Engineering marvel

The BRO worked relentlessly to overcome major geological, terrain and weather challenges that included the most difficult stretch of the 587-metre Seri Nalah Fault Zone. The breakthrough from both ends was achieved on October 15, 2017. Around 14 lakh cubic metres of soil and rocks were excavated using the drill and blast technique for excavation. The overhead clearance of the tunnel is 5.525 metres and the width of the tunnel is 10.5 metres. 14,508 metric tonnes of steel and 2,37,596 metric tonnes of cement has been used in the construction of the tunnel.

State-of-the-art technology

Atal Tunnel has also been equipped with a state-of-the-art electromechanical system. It contains a SCADA-controlled illumination, monitoring as well as fire-fighting system, and semi-transverse ventilation system. Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) is a system that aims to monitor and control field devices at your remote sites.

Safety features

Atal tunnel has a fire-proof emergency route that has been built under the main tunnel. This will provide an emergency exit in case of any untoward incident. The provision for air quality monitoring has been placed at every 1 km. Evacuation lighting and exit signs are also present at every 25 metres. CCTV cameras have been fitted every 250 metres. Telephone connections to be available every 150 metres for an emergency.

Traffic movement capacity

Atal Tunnel has been designed for traffic density of 3000 cars per day and 1,500 trucks per day with max speed of 80 kmph.

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