Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated Asia's longest bi-directional road tunnel on the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway on Sunday.
At the ceremony, Modi urged the youth of Jammu & Kashmir to choose between tourism and terrorism. "I want to tell the people of Kashmir they have two roads to choose from -- of tourism and terrorism. In the past 40 years, much blood has been spilt, to little avail... If tourism had been the focus, Kashmir would have been a hub today," he said.
The National Highways Authority of India has spent Rs 3,720 crore on this state-of-the-art tunnel. The tunnel, which took seven years to build, will link Chenani in Udhampur district with Nashri in Ramban district.
Here are the top 10 highlights of this project:
1) Reduction in travel time by about two hours: The tunnel will be Asia's longest, which will cut the distance between Jammu and Srinagar to around 250 km from the current 350 km. The distance between Chenani and Nashri will be reduced to 9.2 km from 41 km
2) Safe, all-weather route for commuters: Since it is an all-weather tunnel, it will enable an increase in trade and therefore boost revenue in the state. It will help boost tourism too. It will also bypass 44 avalanche- and landslide-prone spots on the highway.
3) Fuel savings to the tune of Rs 27 lakhs per day: The project will result in a saving of Rs 27 lakh per day based on traffic estimates.
4) Protected with a world-class security set up: The tunnel will be equipped with advanced scanners to ward off any security threat. It also comes with a fully-integrated tunnel control system with ventilation, communication, power supply, incident detection, SOS call box and fire fighting.
5) To boost economic activities and tourism in J&K: Travel will cost a light commercial vehicle Rs 55 for one side and Rs 85 for to-and-fro journey and Rs 1,870 for one-month travel. Bigger vehicles like mini buses will have to pay Rs 90 as one side toll and Rs 135 for both sides.
6) Large workforce deployed: As many as 1,500 engineers, geologists, skilled workers and labourers constructed this tunnel.
7) Enhanced tunnel design: The tunnel comprises two tubes, if you will - the 'main tunnel' and the 'escape tunnel'. The two are internally connected through 29 cross-passages; each is located 300 metres apart.
8) Fresh air for commuters: Such a long tunnel could present the problem of a lack of oxygen. To ensure there's no excessive carbon-dioxide build up inside the tunnel, there are several exhaust meters that will check the air all through the length of the tunnel.
9) Facilities for vehicle breakdowns: The tunnel will also have parking spots in case a vehicle breaks down.
10) Environment-friendly: Large deforestation and tree cutting was avoided during construction of the project.