Atal Tunnel that Connects Rohtang To Leh: Civilians can now access the Atal Tunnel, a strategic and majestic tunnel. Named in honor of Atal Bihari Vajpayee (former Prime Minister), the tunnel connects Rohtang and Leh.
Although the civil work on the Atal tunnel project started almost a decade ago, it was given its name by the Central government in tribute to the late politician. Atal Tunnel, also known as the World’s Longest Motorable Road, is located at more than 10,000 feet above sea level (Atal Tunnel height).
Atal Tunnel measures 8.8 km long and runs through the Pir Panjal range of the Lesser Himalayan. It provides all-weather connectivity between Manali & Leh. The distance between Manali, Leh and now is almost 46 km.
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In an interview, Brigadier KP Purushothaman (Chair Engineer, BRO’s Rohtang tunnel), explained to a leading Indian media how the tunnel was constructed under extremely difficult conditions. He stated,
“This Atal Rohtang Tunnel was built at 10,000 feet and connects to Rohtang Pass. It measures 10 meters in width. The distance between Manali and Leh has been reduced to 46 km.
It used to take 5 hours to cross Rohtang Pass. However, with Atal Tunnel now operational, it will only take 10 minutes to get to Leh. Isn’t that incredible?
Horseshoe-shaped, the Atal tunnel is a single tube tunnel. It is a two-lane tunnel. Because of its topography, it also has an escape tunnel inside the main tunnel. It was the first tunnel to use Rowa flyer technology which allows engineers to work at inverted heights.
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These are some less-known facts about Atal Tunnel, which connects Manali and Leh:
1. In 1960, the Moravian mission first discussed the idea of a tunnel beneath Rohtang.
In 1942, Dr John Bicknell Auden of the Geological Survey of India came up with the idea of constructing a tunnel through Rohtang Pass.
2. The tunnel was first conceptualized in 1983 by the Indira Gandhi government.
3. The project was announced by the former Prime Minister Atal Bhari Vajpayee on 3 June 2000
BRO was given the work on May 6, 2002. Sonia Gandhi laid foundation stones for the project on 28 juin 2010.
4. Atal Tunnel was built under the Border Road Organization (BRO), India’s strategic infrastructure development agency.
Construction took place in extreme conditions. BRO engineers dug almost 8 million cubic meters of soil from the ground. The tunnel was constructed using approximately 14,508 metric tons of steel and 2,37.596 metric tons of cement. During the summer, the engineers excavated five metres per day. However, during winter, the work was cut in half by snowfall and harsh weather conditions.
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5. Länge and height of the Atal tunnel
The tunnel’s total length is 9.02 kilometers. It is 8.8 km long and was built at 3,000m above sea level. The tunnel cuts down the travel time between Leh (or Rohtang) by 2.5 hours.
6. Cost of Atal tunnel
Atal Tunnel was built at a cost of Rs 3,200 crore. This converts to US$ 438 million. BRO used state-of the-art Australian tunneling techniques and a ventilation system to allow vehicles to pass through it.
7. Delay in the project
Although the project was supposed to be finished by 2015, water ingress from Seri Nullah and a ban on rock-mining, as well as delays in the allocation of land for quarrying, delayed the completion of the project.
8. Only patients could be transported through the tunnel’s under-construction tunnel as of 22 November 2017.
In emergency situations when the helicopter service was unavailable.
9. During the ongoing conflict between Indian and Chinese troops at Ladakh, India finds the tunnel to be of strategic importance.
India will be able, in a short time span, to supply logistics and weapons to the Indian Army stationed at the Indo China border all year.
10. Atal Tunnel reduces traffic congestion in Lahaul-Spiti, Himachal Pradesh
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The Tunnel reduces distance between Leh-Manali and eases traffic in Lahaul Spiti in Himachal Pradesh. This is a popular tourist destination in India. It will also link Lahaul-Spiti to Manali.
11. A Himachal Road Transport Corporation bus carrying 44 people was allowed to pass through the tunnel in Nov 2019, when it was still not complete.
The bus left from the south portal, and passengers arrived at the north portal. The bus service was available for residents of Lahaul, Spiti and Spiti valleys during the winter months. Private vehicles were not permitted.
12. In case of an accident, there is an escape tunnel from the main tunnel.
In such situations, it would serve as an emergency exit.
13. Atal Tunnel Facilities
- Vehicles can travel up to 80 km/h.
- A telephone is available at 150 meters.
- Every 60 meters, fire hydrants
- Every 500m, emergency gates and air quality monitors are available.
- Every 250m there is a broadcasting system, an automatic incident detection system, and CCTV cameras.
- The tunnel has a semi-transverse ventilation system.
- The tunnel’s cross-section is 2.25 m high by 3.6 m wide.
14. The tunnel’s purpose is to provide an all-weather route from Leh to Spiti and Lahaul in Himachal Pradesh.
These areas are usually isolated from the rest for six months during winter.
15. To complete the tunnel, more than 700 men worked in shifts each day.
16. The tunnel was officially renamed to the Atal Tunnel on 25 December 2019. It was previously known as Rohtang tunnel.
In tribute to Atal Tunnel, the tunnel was named Atal tunnel on his 95th birthday.
17. Inaugaration of the Atal tunnel
The project was complete by September 2020. On 3 October 2020, the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, was present to inaugurate it in the presence Minister of Defence Rajnath Singh, Minister for State for Finance Anurag Thakur and Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh Jai Ram Thakur.