Leh Highway To Reopen For Traffic On Feb 28

Srinagar-Leh Highway | KO File Photo

Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir administration on Wednesday announced reopening of Srinagar-Leh highway for vehicular traffic on February 28.

The vehicles will be flagged off by the Lieutenant Governor of Ladakh Union Territory for traffic movement on February 28, an official spokesperson said Wednesday.

In Srinagar, he said, the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, P K Pole convened a meeting of officers to review status of Srinagar- Sonamarg- Gumri (SSG) road scheduled to be thrown open for civilian traffic from February 28. Among others, Chief Engineer, MED, SSP Traffic Rural were present in the meeting, while the Divisional Commissioner Ladakh, Saugat Biswas, Deputy Commissioner Ganderbal, Deputy Commissioner Kargil, Chief Engineer BRO, officials from NIDCL and SSPs of district Ganderbal and Kargil joined the meeting through Video Conferencing.

Chief Engineer BRO briefed the Div Com about the status of road clearance on National Highway- 1.

According to the official spokesperson, the meeting was informed that the road stands cleared for one-way traffic, however in view of weather advisory the road shall be opened for civilian traffic from February 28.

The meeting, he said, was also informed that several advisories need to be issued in view of slippery road condition and avalanche warnings including allowing plying of vehicles with chains both HMVs and LMVs and one way traffic at Zojilla pass to avoid accidents.

“The Div Com said that to prevent any exigency both of these advisories shall be put in place besides there shall be proper timing to allow movement of vehicles from Sonmarg and Minamarg. The cut off time for vehicles from Sonmarg side shall be 10 am and from Minamarg, the cut off time for vehicles has been proposed as 11 am,” the official spokesperson said.

“To ensure mobile connectivity for travellers along the highway in case of any emergency, Div Com directed the BRO to provide logistic support to BSNL and Jio networks to resume the cellular connectivity,” he added.

As per the official spokesperson, Pole also directed the CE, BRO to provide different kinds assistance including accomodation, food, petrol etc to the travellers during emergency along the highway.

“Besides, he directed the DC Kargil, and CE, MED to place recovery vans on road as per the past practice. The Div Com directed for close coordination among the Dy. SPs and Collectors on both sides of the pass to ensure hassle free movement of vehicles,” he added.

The official spokesperson said that the Div Com, Ladakh during the meeting asked the concerned functionaries that the road clearance be conducted in coordination with telecom authorities to avoid disruption of telecommunication and internet services.

“He also instructed the concerned to allow smooth movement of service vehicles of telecoms along the highway,” he added.

According to the official spokesperson, the DC Ganderbal informed the chair that all facilities for tomorrow’s opening of Sonmarg tourist destination for tourists have been put in place including restoration of power, water and telecommunication services besides opening of hotels etc.

Qazigund-Banihal Tunnel To Be Thrown Open In March

The work on the four-lane Qazigund-Banihal tunnel along the Srinagar-Jammu national highway, which was started around a decade ago, is going on at a full pace and is expected to be thrown open in March next month.

Officials said that the tunnel has already missed around six deadlines, however, the work at the tunnel is in the final stage now, according to news agency KNO.

In 2011, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) commissioned the construction of two tunnels namely Chenani-Nashri and Qazigund-Banihal along the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway to reduce travel distance and make it an all season motorable road.

However, the 10.5 km Chenani-Nashri tunnel was thrown open by the end of 2018 but the 8.5 km Qazigund-Banihal is awaiting completion.

The tunnel with two parallel tubes is being constructed by Indian infrastructure major Navayuga Engineering Co (NEC) at a cost of around Rs 2000 crore.

Muneeb Tak, Chief Manager, Navayuga Engineering Company said that Qazigund-Banihal tunnel would reduce the distance between two sides by over 16 km.

He said that it is a double tube tunnel and each tube will be seven meters (23 ft) wide and will bypass the spots where there remains obstruction in vehicular movement on the highway during winters like Jawahar Tunnel and Shaitan Nallah.

Officials said that this project has been completed on the Austrian tunnelling method and over one hundred jet fans, over 200 CCTV cameras and fire fighting systems are being established in both tubes of the tunnel.

They said that Qazigund-Banihal tunnel is 8.5 km long at an elevation of 1,790 m (5,870 ft) in Pir Panjal range in J&K.

Officials said that it is a double tube tunnel consisting of two parallel tunnels -one for each direction of travel and two tunnels are interconnected by a passage every 500 m (1,600 ft) for maintenance and emergency evacuation, they said.

“The tunnel will have forced ventilation for extracting smoke and stale air and infusing fresh air and it will have state of the art monitoring and control systems for security,” they said.

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