On Friday, officials declared success on the first 24-hour trial run of vehicular traffic through the double-tube four-lane along the Jammu-Srinagar national highway
According to the Chief Manager of Navayuga Engineering Company Muneeb Tak, the round the clock run ended at 10 am on Friday and came after the newly-constructed tunnel was opened for limited vehicular traffic on regular intervals for trial over the past fortnight ahead of its commissioning,
The 8.5 km tunnel, built at a cost of Rs 21,00 crore in 10 years, is presently going through the testing and commissioning process and is likely to become operational this month, the officials said.
It will bypass Jawahar Tunnel and Shaitan Nalla, which is prone to heavy snowfall and slippery conditions during winters and results in a bottleneck in the strategically-important road linking Kashmir to the rest of the country.
"The trial run ended successfully. Except fuel-laden tankers, all kinds of traffic was allowed in the 24-hour trial run," Tak said.
The first trial run of the traffic from both sides was conducted successfully from 4 pm to 6 pm on June 16 and continued on regular intervals since then.
The work on the project started in June 2011 by Navyug engineering company and its operationalisation would reduce the road distance between Banihal in Jammu province and Qazigund in south Kashmir by 16 km.
The officials said no disruptions were faced during the trial run as the movement of traffic from both sides remained smooth.
The tunnel is a masterpiece of engineering and has been constructed with the New Austrian Tunnelling Method. It has been built on the Build Operate and Transfer base system with a state-of-the-art exhaust system to remove gas and bring in fresh air.
There are 126 Jet fans, 234 CCTV modern cameras and a firefighting system have been installed in both tubes of the tunnel. A corridor between two tubes after every 500 meters inside the tunnel has been built that could be used in case of any emergency in either tube.
The existing road tunnel below the Banihal pass often witnessed traffic congestion that affected movement on the 270-km highway, the only all-weather road linking Kashmir with the rest of the country, due to its elevation of 2,194 metres and limited traffic capacity.
The new tunnel's average elevation at 1,790 metres is 400 metres lower than the existing Jawahar tunnel's elevation, which would make it less prone to avalanches and fulfils the dream of expressway between Srinagar and Banihal.
The officials said most of the civil, mechanical and electrical works have been completed while the toll plazas on both the terminals are also ready.
(With PTI Inputs)