March 2017 News

Why This Tunnel Will Become Jammu And Kashmir's Lifeline

31 March 2017
Times of India
Prasad Sanyal

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will dedicate to the nation Asia's longest bi-directional road tunnel on the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway on Sunday (April 2). The Chenani-Nashri all-weather tunnel has been built at a cost of over Rs 2,500 crore in about five years. Built at an altitude of 1,200 meters, the 10.89 km tunnel would cut the travel distance between Jammu and Srinagar by about 40 kilometres, and is expected to save passengers over 2 hours in travel time as it will bypass snow- and landslide-prone Kud, Patnitop and Batote on National Highway 44. According to estimates, it also promises fuel savings of over Rs 27 lakh per day and will also provide better connectivity to people in Kishtwar, Doda and Bhaderwah in the Jammu region. The work on the twin-tube tunnel, which is part of National Highway Authority of India's (NHAI's) 286-km-long four-lane project on the highway, started on May 23, 2011, in the lower Himalayan mountain range. The project forms part of the proposed widening of NH-44 (old NH-1A) from Jammu to Srinagar. Hailed as an engineering marvel, this marks significant roadbuilding firsts in India, including an unprecedented stress on user safety. Amongst its host of intelligent road tunnel features are: Integrated traffic control system; Entrance Detection Control System; Active Firefighting System; Electronic Surveillance System; Evacuative Broadcast System; Tunnel Ventilation System; VENTILATION: With inlets every 8 metres bringing fresh air into the main tube, and exhaust outlets every 100 meter opening into the escape tube, the longest highway tunnel in India also happens to be Asia's longest bi-directional highway tunnel with fully transverse ventilation system. Such a ventilation system is a first for India. For such long tunnels, ventilation systems are essential to maintain clean air, permissible carbon dioxide levels and expel harmful vehicle emissions. In layman parlance, the drives for ventilation system are akin to the lungs and the motors and safety software akin the muscles for the tunnel ventilation system. To ensure smooth travel and safety of commuters, ABB designed, engineered and supplied low harmonics variable speed drive (VSD) system for tunnel ventilation. The VSDs and motors are installed at the North (Nashri) and South (Chenani) portals for air supply and exhaust. 'ABB India is privileged to deploy technology for another infrastructure project of national importance. ABB's best in class global technology manufactured in India will make Asia's longest road tunnel safer and will ensure effective ventilation,' Sanjeev Sharma, CEO and Managing Director, ABB India, told 'The new tunnel's safety controls were developed by ABB in India, for effectively mitigating any fire emergencies.' Globally, ABB has executed the world's most powerful ventilation system with the power of 80 Formula E cars for Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland+ - the world's longest (35.5 miles) and deepest (8,000 feet maximum depth) train tunnel. SAFETY: Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (IL&FS) Company is all set to handover the project to the NHAI soon after the focal inauguration by the Prime Minister. The company says the tunnel has unprecedented safety features, a key feature being the two tubes that run parallel to each other. The main traffic tunnel is 13 metres in diameter and has a safety tunnel alongside that's about 6 metres in diameter. The two 9-kilometre-long tubes are connected by 29 cross passages at regular intervals along the entire length of the tunnel. The 29 cross passages between the two tunnels will be used to evacuate a user who might be in distress, or to tow away a vehicle that might have broken down. 124 cameras and a linear heat detection system inside the tunnel will alert an Integrated Tunnel Control Room (ITCR) located outisde to monitor and intervene, if necessary. ECONOMIC IMPACT: Cars will pay Rs 55 on one- way fare and Rs 85 for to-and-fro journey and Rs 1,870 for a 'monthly pass', while bigger vehicles like pick-up and small buses will have pay Rs 90 for one-way and Rs 135 for to-and-fro toll. Buses and trucks will be charged Rs 190 for a single journey and Rs 285 for return. Commuters will also be able to use their mobile phones inside the tunnel. BSNL, Airtel and Idea have set up facilities inside the tunnel to carry signals. 'The tunnel has multiple economic gains as connectivity in the remote area can help transform the life of this neglected region in the hills. The credit goes to previous planners for having mooted this tunnel,' S P Singh, senior fellow at the Indian Foundation of Transport Research and Training (IFTRT) told Economic Times.