The struggle of over 40 years behind ‘Rohtang Tunnel’ is finally over. The 8.8 km long ‘Atal Tunnel’ named after former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee is all set to be inaugurated in September 2020 by PM Narendra Modi. It is one of the longest road tunnels in the country and is now set to become the world’s longest highway tunnel above 10,000 feet. The tunnel will shorten the distance of about 46 km between Solang Valley in Manali to Sissu in Lahaul as now it would just take 15 minutes to reach which was till now covered in 2-3 hours.
Atal Tunnel will now provide winter connectivity to Lahaul, Spiti and Zanskar. It is a big relief to these areas as until now they remained cut-off from the rest of the world for about 6 months. The 8.8 km tunnel has 10.5 m width and 5.25 m clearance as it stands as a project of military significance as well. The construction of the tunnel faced many challenges due to the overcast conditions and heavy snowfall in the region.
This project is nearly 40 years old when the government approved the development of Manali-Sarchu-Leh all-weather road in 1983. The project got clearance in 2003 by RITES (Rail India Technical and Economic Service) and its foundation stone was laid by Sonia Gandhi on July 28, 2010. The tunnel has been made out of 3200 crore which consists of a telephone at every 150m, fire hydrants at every 60 m, emergency exit at every 500m, air quality monitoring at every 1km along with turning cavern at every 2.2 km. The tunnel is well equipped with broadcasting system and CCTVs after every 250m that comprise of an automatic incident detection system. Well constructed with latest technologies, the tunnel holds international significance.