A joint venture team between Strabag and Afcons is constructing the longest motorable tunnel above 13,000 ft at Manali in Himachal Pradesh. The 8.8 km-long road tunnel originates at Dhundi above the Solang Valley and slips into the belly of the Rohtang Pass to emerge at Sissu on the Lahaul side. The trailer peeks into the life of engineers working in that altitude, braving the freezing and inhospitable weather to complete one of BRO’s most ambitious projects…
The construction of the Rohtang tunnel, India’s strategically important infrastructure project that will ensure all-weather connectivity to forward areas in Ladakh bordering China and Pakistan. The Rs.1,495-crore ($290 million) Rohtang tunnel’s foundation stone was laid by United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi June 28, 2010, in the picturesque Solang Valley near here.
The project is being built by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), an organisation under the defence ministry, in collaboration with Strabag-Afcons, a joint venture between India’s Afcons Infrastructure Ltd and Strabag SE of Austria. According to a BRO official, some areas along the Rohtang tunnel’s south portal are under 8 to 10 feet of snow and the minimum temperature is around minus 20 degrees Celsius.
The construction contract of the tunnel has been awarded to Strabag-Afcons, a joint venture between India-based Afcons Infrastructure and Austria’s Strabag.
The contractors were selected after the project was approved by the Indian Cabinet Committee on Security in September 2009.
Australia-based SMEC (Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation) will provide design and project management services until completion of the project.
“The tunnel will reduce the distance between Manali and Lahaul by about 45km and travel time by four hours.”
The feasibility study for the project was done by Rail India Technical & Economic Services (RITES).
On completion, the tunnel will be a boon for the cold deserts of Lahaul Valley, where over 20,000 people remain cut off from the rest of the country in winters owing to the closure of the Rohtang Pass.
The tunnel, with a horseshoe shaped cross-section, will be 11.25 m wide at road level, providing ample room for two-way traffic, and is designed to cater to a maximum vehicular speed of 80 km/hr.
But the Rohtang tunnel alone might not be enough to make the Manali-Keylong-Leh highway an all-weather road. There are two other major snowbound passes along the way – Baralacha La and Thaglang La.
To overcome this, the project envisages constructing a 292-km-long all-weather road, Nimu-Padam-Darcha, via Shinkunla Pass, traversing the remote Zanskar region of Jammu and Kashmir, estimated to cost an additional Rs.286 crore.
The approach roads will initially help in carrying the construction material to the site. They will be later developed to meet the specifications of a National Highway double lane.