Prime Minister Narendra Modi shall inaugurate Atal Tunnel in Rohtang at 10.00 am on October 3 during his short five-hour trip to the Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh.
The 9.02 km Atal Tunnel is the longest highway tunnel in the world and will connect Manali to Lahaul-Spiti Valley throughout the year. Earlier the valley would be cut off for about six months each year owing to heavy snowfall during winter months. Besides, the tunnel will make Leh – the capital of the union territory of Ladakh – accessible from the rest of the country throughout the entire year by road.
The tunnel is built with ultra-modern specifications in the Pir Panjal range of Himalayas at an altitude of 3,000 metres (10,000 ft) from the mean sea level (MSL). It reduces the road distance by 46 km between Manali and Leh and the time by about four to five hours.
The South Portal (SP) of the Atal Tunnel is located at a distance of 25 km from Manali at an altitude of 3,060 metres while the North Portal (NP) of the tunnel is located near the township of Sissu in Lahaul Valley at an altitude of 3,071 metres.
The tunnel is a horseshoe-shaped, single tube double-lane structure with a roadway of 8 metres. It has an overhead clearance of 5.525 metres. It is 10.5 metres wide and has a 3.6 x 2.25 metre fireproof emergency egress tunnel built into the main tunnel itself.
Atal Tunnel has been designed for a traffic density of 3,000 cars per day and 1,500 trucks per day with a maximum speed of 80 km/hr. It has a state-of-the-art electromechanical system including a semi-transverse ventilation system, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) controlled firefighting, illumination and monitoring system.
The tunnel has several safety features built into it like the tunnel entry barriers at both portals, telephone connections every 150 metres for emergency communication, fire hydrant mechanisms every 60 metres, auto incident detection system with CCTV cameras every 250 metres, air quality monitoring every 1 km, evacuation lighting and exit signs every 25 metres, broadcasting system, fire-rated dampers every 50 metres and CCTV cameras every 60 metres.
The historic decision to construct a strategic tunnel below the Rohtang Pass was taken on June 3, 2000, when the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the prime minister. The foundation stone for the access road to the South Portal of the tunnel was laid on May 26, 2002.
The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) worked relentlessly to overcome major geological, terrain and weather challenges that included the most difficult stretch of the 587-metre Seri Nalah Fault Zone. The breakthrough from both ends was achieved on October 15, 2017.
The Union Cabinet met under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Modi on December 24, 2019, and decided to name the Rohtang Tunnel as Atal Tunnel to honour the contribution made by the former Prime Minister Vajpayee.
After attending the inauguration function of the Atal Tunnel at South Portal, Manali, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi shall be participating in public functions at Sissu in Lahaul Spiti and Solang Valley.