The Rohtang Road Tunnel is definitely a must to cross road tunnel in India when it opens up for vehicular traffic in 2019. The high altitude road tunnel is an engineering marvel built in the tough mountainous Pir Panjal range in the Himalayas. This tunnel, which is 8.8 km long, is the second longest road tunnel in India.
Significance of Rohtang Tunnel
The Rohtang Road Tunnel will be a boon for travellers on Leh- Manali route. The current route from Rohtang Pass, Himachal Pradesh, closes for four to six months due to snowfall. The new tunnel will be an all-season travel route. It is expected to reduce the distance between Manali and Leh by almost 46 km. Currently the route from Manali to Lahaul and Spiti to Leh passes through the Rohtang Pass route.
There are limitations to number of vehicles that can go through Rohtang Pass as the Himachal Pradesh government issues special permit to travel by the road. Also, the Rohtang Pass route is difficult to travel because of it’s curvaceous ascends and descends. With the opening of the Rohtang Road Tunnel there will be almost four to five hours of reduction in time. Also, about 3,000 vehicles will be able to drive through per day under any type of weather conditions. The tunnel has been designed with sufficient space for two-way traffic for vehicles with maximum speed of 80 km per hour.
The tunnel will also be of strategic importance for India’s defence forces’ movement. Currently the armed forces are using the 475 km route from Manali to Keylong to Leh to reach to border areas in Ladakh from June to December. But with the tunnel opening the transportation for the armed forces can be easily carried out through out the year.
The Rohtang Tunnel will be a blessing for the local people who have any access from rest of India during the harsh winter months. It will also help create more tourism for Manali and Leh regions, which are popular among both domestic and foreign tourists.
Construction of the Rohtang Road Tunnel
The construction work of the Rohtang Road Tunnel is being done by the Border Roads Organisation or the BRO, which comes under the Defence Ministry in partnership with company Afcons, a partner venture with Strabag AG. The tunnel is built at elevation of 3100 metres or 10,171 feet. It is not exactly under the Rohtang Pass but little west of the pass. Interestingly, the first proposal about the possibility of the tunnel was raised in 1860 and then later Jawaharlal Nehru had talked about a rope way to Rohtang pass. It was in 2000 under the leadership of the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee a feasibility study of the tunnel’s construction was undertaken. Foundation stone for the project was laid in 2002 and the drilling work had begun in 2010.
It was a challenging task to excavate for tunnelling from both ends because of the terrain and difficult weather conditions. The construction team had to face avalanche sites, water ingress, difficulty to dispose off excavated rocks and soil. A rivulet had sprung up in 2012 during excavation and team of 42 labourers had died because of a cloud burst and flash flooding in 2003. The project had to be stopped many times and the completion deadline was postponed as well.
Now after years of perseverance and hard work of the highly efficient engineering team the Rohtang Road Tunnel is almost on verge of completion. It is expected to open up for general public by the end of 2019.
So for those who want to enjoy the beauty of Himalayas by travelling on Manali-Leh route, save time and enjoy the thrill of passing through a deep 8.8 km high altitude tunnel, then there are good chances of it in 2019.