The work on strategic Zoji La Tunnel which has a chequered history is all set to resume construction. The first blasting for Zoji La Tunnel in the Union territories of Jammu & Kashmir on 15th October. When finished, the tunnel will provide all-weather connectivity between Srinagar valley and Leh (Ladakh plateau) on National Highway -1 (NH-1). The 14.15 Km long tunnel is being constructed at an altitude of about 3000 m under Zoji La pass. The pass is presently motorable only for 6 months in a year. It will connect Srinagar and Leh through Dras & Kargil.
Conceived in 2005, the Border Road Organisation (BRO) submitted its Detailed Project Report (DPR) in 2013. The project was on Biold Operate Transfer (BOT) Annuity mode. There were no takers for the project in four attempts. The Project was finally handed over to the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDCL) in July 2016 and the model was changed to Engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) mode. Its work was awarded to IL&FS Transportation Networks Limited (ITNL). The work commenced in May 2018. The contract had to be terminated as the work progressed only up to July 2019 as IL&FS went into financial problems.
The project went for a review and a modified plan was submitted with an approach road length of 18.63 Km, taking the total project length to 32.78 km. The 18.63 Km approach road is between Z-Morh tunnel and Zoji La tunnels. The two tunnels are of length 433m and 1958m in approach road. The net road length is of 12 KMs. The egress or escape passage between Baltal and Minamarg has been omitted. The project includes road safety and avalanche protection structures such as Catch Dams, Snow Galleries, Cut & Cover and Deflector Dam. As per the plan, the new project completion deadline is 6 years. The approach road is to be built in 2.5 years.
The Hyderabad based Megha Engineering & Infrastructure Limited (MEIL) has been awarded the work for Rs 4509.50 crore.
Once the tunnel is read, the travelling time will be cut down to 5 minutes which was around 3 hours via the Zoji La Pass.