434-km Srinagar-Leh National Highway likely to reopen for traffic on Saturday

SRINAGAR — The strategic 434-km Srinagar-Leh National hHighway is likely to be opened for vehicular traffic on Saturday in a record time of 74 days after its closure for winter months in January, a senior official of the Border Roads Organisation said.

Director General of BRO Lt Gen Rajeev Chaudhary also said the ongoing renovation and repair work on Jawahar Tunnel along the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway will be completed this year to provide a world class experience to the commuters.

The BRO chief was speaking to media after reviewing the upgradation work and other projects being undertaken by the construction executive force that develops and maintains road networks in border areas.

“We will make an attempt to open Zojila pass (Srinagar-Leh National Highway) tomorrow (Saturday). We were able to keep Zojila pass, which attracts heavy snowfall during winter, open till January 4 this year which is a record,” Lt Gen Chaudhary told reporters at Jawahar Tunnel near Banihal after reviewing the ongoing repair and renovation work.

He said the highway used to close by November-end, but the efforts of the Beacon force unit in Kashmir and Vijayak force unit in Ladakh in 2020 saw the highway remaining open till December 31 before it was closed. The highway was opened on April 21 last year.

“This time we are making further efforts to bring down that 110-day period so that the vital road connecting Srinagar and Leh is made trafficable to ensure smooth transportation of goods, including medical and other supplies, to Ladakh,” Lt Gen Chaudhary said.

He said the purpose of his visit was to oversee the repair and maintenance work on Jawahar Tunnel besides taking stock of roads and other infrastructure.

The renovation and upgradation work on the twin tubes of Jawahar Tunnel on the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway was taken up early last year after it was bypassed by the opening of 8.5 km Navyug tunnel, connecting Banihal town in Ramban district with Qazigund in south Kashmir’s Anantnag.

“This project will be completed this year. This is the oldest tunnel, which was taken over by BRO in 1963. The upgradation of the tunnel with state-of-the-art ventilation, fire-fighting and intelligent traffic control systems is progressing smoothly,” the Director General of the BRO said.

Lt Gen Chaudhary, who was earlier briefed by the officers on the progress of work on the tunnel, said the traffic which cannot be allowed through the newly constructed Navyug tunnel will go through this tunnel. These include oil tankers carrying fuel to the Valley.

Jawahar Tunnel, having two tubes with a length of 2.85 kms each, was constructed in 1955-60 by a German company. Last time, the tunnel was renovated in 1997.

About Rs 80 crore was being spent on modernisation of the two tubes as the government is planning to develop the area as a tourist destination.

Beig Construction Company (BCC) is undertaking the renovation and upgradation work which include improving electromagnetic design, lining pavements, road surface work and its safety features like unmanned-monitoring, state-of-the- art fire fighting system, ventilation system, including lighting, intelligent traffic control system and various other allied works. — (PTI)