India on Saturday achieved a major milestone in the direction of upgrading border infrastructure.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Atal Tunnel at Rohtang in Himachal Pradesh. He was accompanied by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur and Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs, Anurag Thakur.
The inauguration of the world’s longest highway tunnel comes in 18 years after the foundation stone was laid by former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. The tunnel was originally the brainchild of former PM Vajpayee who had laid the foundation stone on May 26, 2002.
The 9.02-km long tunnel connects Manali and the Lahaul-Spiti valley throughout the year, which earlier was cut off for nearly six months every year due to heavy snowfall. Moreover, the all-weather tunnel reduces the distance between Manali and Leh by 46 kilometres, bringing the travel time down by 4-5 hours.
Speaking at the event post-inauguration, PM Modi talked of the importance the Atal Tunnel would assume in connecting Leh-Ladakh with the rest of the country.
The Atal Tunnel has been designed for a traffic density of 3,000 cars per day and 1,500 trucks per day with a maximum speed of 80 kilometers per hour, a critical factor especially if the situation worsens along the border with China and additional troops need to be sent to the LAC.
The Prime Minister also said that the tunnel is a step in improving the infrastructure along the country’s borders. He said that the Centre is putting great emphasis in this regard.
The Atal Tunnel has been built with ultra-modern specifications in the Pir Panjal range of Himalayas at an altitude of 3,000 metres from the mean sea level.
The tunnel is yet another example of the Border Roads Organisation’s excellence in making and maintaining roads at such altitudes. The tunnel begins from Dhundhi, 25 kilometers away from Manali and ends near Teling village in Lahaul Valley.