Today PM of India inaugurated the long-awaited Atal Tunnel which is the highest altitude tunnel in the world. On June 3, 2000, erstwhile PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee decided to construct the tunnel below the Rohtang Pass. To honour the vision and efforts made by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the Union Cabinet decided in 2019 to name the tunnel as Atal. In Persian language, Rohtang refers to a pile of dead bodies.
Interesting facts about Atal tunnel and this engineering prodigy
- The practicality study for the Atal Tunnel was first done in 1990. Overall, two blasts took place; the first in 2010 whereas the second blast in 2017. On May 6, 2002, the foundation stone for the access road to the south portal of the tunnel was laid. The construction of this tunnel was made possible by using drill and blast NATM (New Austria Tunnelling Method) technique.
- The Atal Tunnel connects Manali to Lahaul-Spiti valley which is 9.02 km long tunnel. In the Pir Panjal range of Himalayas, the tunnel is built with ultra-modern specifications at an altitude of 3000 metres (10,000 feet) from the Mean Sea Level (MSL). Previously, the road would get affected for about six months every year due to snowfall.
- The Atal Tunnel has reduced the road distance by 46 kms between Manali and Leh and decreased time by about four to five hours. For the last 10 years, Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has been putting a lot of efforts which is now reaching the final stage.
- The North Portal (NP) of the tunnel is situated near village Teling, Sissu, in Lahaul Valley at a height of 3,071 Metres. On the other hand, South Portal (SP) is situated at a distance of 25 kms from Manali at an altitude of 3,060 Metres.
- This single tube, double laned tunnel is horseshoe-shaped with a roadway of 8 metres and overhead clearance of 5.525 metres. With all these features, it is 10.5-metre wide and has a 3.6 x 2.25 metres fire-proof emergency egress tunnel. There is a total of 18 egress tunnels where after a gap of every 500 metres there is an opening in case of an unforeseen emergency.
- Atal Tunnel has been constructed taking into consideration the traffic density of 1,500 trucks and 3000 cars per day. The tunnel has electromechanical system together with semi transverse ventilation system.
- The tunnel has sufficient features together with telephone connections at every 150 metres for emergency phone call. Also, it has fire hydrant mechanisms at every 60 metres. At every 250 metres there is auto incident detection system with CCTV cameras. For safety purpose, BRO has also added air quality monitoring at every one Km.
- The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) worked by putting all its determination and perseverance to overcome major geological, terrain and weather challenges that included the most challenging stretch of the 587 metre Seri Nalah Fault Zone. The breakthrough from both ends was accomplished on October 15, 2017.