Piercing through the inner Himalayas, a new 9.2 km tunnel will shorten the driving time between Jammu and Srinagar by two hours, come Sunday. PM Narendra Modi is scheduled to inaugurate the two-lane Chenani-Nashri tunnel, which would be Asia's longest, cutting down the Srinagar-Jammu distance from 300 km to around 250 km.
The tunnel, which took seven years to build, will act as an all-weather alternative to the existing Jammu-Srinagar highway, linking Chenani in Udhampur district with Nashri in Ramban district. It will bypass the ecologically sensitive Patnitop area, and reduce the distance between Chenani and Nashri from 41 km to 9.2 km, while also steering clear of 44 avalanche and landslide-prone spots on the highway.
The construction, which began on May 23, 2011, involved nearly 1,500 engineers, geologists and labourers, besides skilled workers. It was supposed to be completed within five years but unhelpful weather on the thoroughfare and local disputes between labourers and contractors delayed the project by two years.
The National Highway Authority of India has spent Rs.3,720 crore on the project which has two tubes: the main tunnel and the escape tunnel. These two are internally connected through 29 cross-passages, with each located 300 metres apart.
Since the tunnel will bypass three major highway passenger stops, Kud, Patnitop and Batote, residents and businesses of these areas are upset that the tunnel will deprive them of their livelihood. Taking their objections into account, Asad said the J&K government was planning to rehabilitate small-time businessmen of the three stations.
There are 124 CCTV cameras for surveillance inside the tunnel. In case of traffic violation, the control room will inform the traffic police deployed outside the tunnel, who will fine the errant drivers. The suffocation levels created by excessive carbon-dioxide inside the tunnel will be checked by exhausts along the way .