The honorable Prime Minister of India Shri. Narendra Modi inaugurated the world’s longest tunnel on October 3, 2020. Atal Tunnel is 9.02 km long and is located at an altitude of 10,000 feet. The tunnel is named after the former Prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Atal Tunnel or Rohtang Tunnel is a highway tunnel built under the Rohtang Pass in the eastern Pir Pranjal range of the Himalayas on the Leh-Manali highway in Himachal Pradesh. Let us take a look at the salient features of the tunnel.
The decision of building the tunnel was taken in 2000 by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The foundation stone of the south portal of the tunnel was laid on May 6, 2002. Earlier it was estimated that the tunnel would be ready to use by 2015 and in a budget of 500 crores. However, the progress was slow. The contract was given to Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation (SMEC) in 2007 from Border Road Organization (BRO), and the budget was revised to 900 crores. The breakthrough from both ends was achieved on 5th October 2015. The name of the world’s longest tunnel was declared on 24th December 2019 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as an ‘Atal Tunnel’ to honor the contribution of the former Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
1. Strategic Importance
The tunnel has reduced the distance between Leh and Manali by almost 46 km. As a result, it has condensed the travel time of about 4-5 hours. The 117 km distance between Manali and Keylong Pass is usually covered in 6 hours. But it has reduced to almost 2 hours, all thanks to Atal Tunnel.
2. Built Specifications
The tunnel is built with ultra-modern specifications. It is a horseshoe-shaped and single tube double lane tunnel. The width of the tunnel is 8 meters and an overhead clearance of 5.525 meters. The total width of the tunnel is 10.5 meters and has a 3.6 x 2.25 meters fireproof emergency egress tunnel built inside the main tunnel. The tunnel has a state of the art electromechanical system including a transverse ventilation system. The Rohtang tunnel is well illuminated and also has a Supervisory Control of Data Acquisition (SCADA) controlled firefighting mechanism.
3. Heavy Duty
The tunnel is meticulously designed to tackle a traffic density of 3000 cars and 1500 trucks daily at a maximum speed of 80 km/hr.
4. Safety Features
- Tunnel entry barriers at both ends
- Emergency telephone connections at every 150 meters
- Fire hydrant mechanism at every 60 meters
- Auto incident detection system with CCTV cameras at 250 meters
- Air quality monitoring at each kilometer
- Evacuating light exit sign at every 25 meters
- Broadcasting system throughout the tunnel
- Fire-rated dampers at every 50 meters
The tunnel stands as an outstanding example for the world. The building of the tunnel was not an easy task. The laborers, engineers, and contractors worked a day in and day out to build the world’s longest tunnel. The most difficult portion of the tunnel was the 587 meters of the Seri Nalah Fault Zone. There were innumerable travails in building the tunnel but they were all tackled ferociously by the brave engineers of India. Today the entire nation salutes all the individuals who took part in the building of the Atal tunnel as they all have set a major landmark in the development of India.