Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate on Saturday the strategically important all-weather Atal Tunnel, which reduces the distance between Manali and Leh by 46 km and the travel time by four to five hours, at Rohtang in Himachal Pradesh. After the inauguration, Modi will also attend public functions at Sissu in Lahaul Spiti and at Solang Valley, said his office on Thursday.
The 9.02 km-long 'Atal' is the longest highway tunnel in the world, connecting Manali to Lahaul-Spiti valley throughout the year. The valley was earlier cut off for about six months every year due to heavy snowfall, said the Prime Minister's Office. The tunnel is built with ultra-modern specifications in the Pir Panjal range of Himalayas at an altitude of 3000 metres(10,000 feet) from the Mean Sea Level (MSL).
The south portal (SP) of Atal Tunnel is located at a distance of 25 km from Manali at an altitude of 3,060 metres, while the north portal (NP) of the tunnel is located near village Teling, Sissu, in Lahaul Valley at an altitude of 3,071 metres.
It is a horse shoe shaped, single-tube double lane tunnel with a roadway of 8 metres and has an overhead clearance of 5.525 metres, the PMO said. Atal Tunnel has been designed for traffic density of 3000 cars per day and 1,500 trucks per day with max speed of 80 kmph.
The Atal Bihari Vajpayee government had taken the decision to construct the strategic tunnel below the Rohtang Pass on June 3, 2000, and the foundation stone for the access road to the south portal of the tunnel was laid on May 26, 2002. The Modi government decided to name the Rohtang Tunnel as Atal Tunnel in December 2019 to honour the former prime minister who had passed away the previous year.
The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) worked relentlessly to overcome major geological, terrain and weather challenges that included the most difficult stretch of the 587-metre Seri Nalah Fault Zone. The breakthrough from both ends was achieved on October 15, 2017, the statement said.