The development work will begin shortly on the strategic Zojila tunnel, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari recently announced. The tunnel will provide all-year connectivity between the regions of Kashmir and Ladakh. Stalled for nearly six years, the Zojila tunnel project holds strategic significance as the Zojila Pass is located on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh National Highway, at an altitude of 11,578 feet and during winters, it remains closed due to heavy snowfall, thereby cutting off Ladakh region from Kashmir, according to a PTI report.
The Minister for Road Transport and Highways, Gadkari was quoted in the report saying that his ministry is starting work on the Zojila tunnel, which is worth around Rs 7,500-Rs 8,000 crore, to connect Ladakh. While addressing a video interaction on ‘Employment Opportunities by MSME Ministry, Constraints as well as Problems faced by Jammu and Kashmir, the minister also said a new express highway was being constructed to link Delhi with Amritsar and Katra. This new express highway will reduce the travel time between the national capital and Amritsar to four hours at an average speed of 110 to 120 km per hour, the report added.
The Zojila tunnel, which would be 14.15 km long, is likely to reduce the 3.5 hour drive to just 15 minutes of travel. The strategic tunnel is proposed to include a fully transverse ventilation system, emergency lighting, continuous power supply, traffic logging equipment, CCTV monitoring, tunnel radio system, variable message signs, and overheight vehicle detection.
Besides these features, the proposed plan of the tunnel included the provision of emergency telephones as well as fire-fighting cabinets every 125 metres, pedestrian cross passages every 250 metres, and motorable cross passages as well as lay-bys every 750 metres. The project is expected to give a boost to local businesses as they would get linked to the national market, therefore, leading to an increase in job opportunities at multiple levels.