SRINAGAR: The 8.5-km tunnel between Qazigund in Kashmir Valley and Banihal in Jammu region and passing beneath mighty Pirpanjal hills was on Wednesday thrown open for vehicular traffic on a trial basis.
The tunnel will reduce travel time between Jammu and Kashmir’s twin capitals — Srinagar and Jammu — by about 90 minutes and 16km.
Union minister for road transport and highways, Nitin Gadkari, tweeted, “Under the leadership of PM Shri @narendramodi Ji, another milestone in infrastructure development of Jammu & Kashmir is fulfilled. The 8.5 km tunnel between Qazigund and Banihal has been completed and open to traffic for trial”. (sic)
In another tweet, he informed that the tunnel, built at 5,800 feet above sea level will, replace Jawahar tunnel also called Banihal tunnel, a 2.85 km road tunnel constructed for round-the-year surface transport between 1954 and 1956 and operational since December 22, 1956, and will provide all weather connectivity between Kashmir Valley and the rest of the country.
J&K’s chief secretary, Arun Kumar Mehta, had at a meeting held here recently to review the status of National Highway-44 expressed concern over “unsatisfactory” progress of road widening and maintenance works which, he said, was causing inconvenience to the commuters.
He asked the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) to complete the macadamisation of Dalwas stretch of the vital road in three days and Jakheni-Nashri section of it by August 15 besides immediately commencing the realignment works on Ramban-Banihal section to be completed by December 2022.
The NHAI was also directed to handover the by-pass section of the old national highway (Pantha Chowk-Sonwar) to J&K Public Works (Road and Buildings) Department for its further maintenance. It was further asked to install crash barriers with warning signs at all critical junctions by August 31 to prevent fatal accidents on the National Highway-44.