India’s Prime Minister has announced that work is to begin on the Zojila tunnel in to connect Srinagar, Kargil and Leh.
The 14km road tunnel will be bored through Zojila Pass on Srinagar-Kargil-Leh National highway. The existing road often remains closed during winters due to heavy snowfall.
When completed the tunnel will be India’s longest road tunnel and Asia’s longest bidirectional tunnel. Journey times will reduced from the current 3.5hours to 15 minutes.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi approved the construction, operation and maintenance earlier this year of the INR68bn (£740M) tunnel.
The tunnel will provide all weather connectivity between Srinagar, Kargil and Leh which often remains snow-bound for a large part of the year, and suffers from frequent avalanches.
As a result, places in the Laddakh region are disrupted for long periods, preventing essential supplies from reaching people, shutting down businesses, affecting healthcare and education.
According to The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs the tunnel will bring about all round economic and socio-cultural integration of the regions, as well as direct jobs generated during construction, including skilling up for tunnelling jobs in Jammu & Kashmir.
The tunnel will have pedestrian crossing passages every 250m and vehicle cross passages and laybys every 750m.