Travel between Srinagar and Jammu won’t be the same again
Patnitop: The stage is set to throw open the prestigious Chenani-Nashri tunnel, largest of its type in the sub-continent, that would reduce distance between Jammu and Srinagar to the best comfort of the commuters. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to inaugurate the tunnel on April 2.
The tunnel will bypass three landmark stations-Kud, Patnitop and Batote-and transform the road to an all-weather stretch.
Ashok Kumar, an engineering expert who heads a civil works unit in the tunnel project told Kashmir Reader that the tunnel will remove the three treacherous routes-spread over 31 kilometers to mere 11 kilometers.
“To traverse the highway along these three township stations the commuters used to take a minimum of two hours. The same distance would be covered between 12-15 minutes through the tunnel. It will also save fuel of Rs 27 lakh a day,” Kumar said.
However, there are some restrictions on the travel through the tunnel. Chicken-laden trucks and inflammables would not be allowed passage.
The project, started in 2011, was constructed by the Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Limited (IL&FS) at a whopping cost of Rs 3700 crore, Rs 1000 crore more than the original cost. It is also said to be an engineering marvel with automatic ventilation, traffic signals and communication system.
“The tunnel comprised of the 9.2-km-long main tunnel, 9.2-km-long escape tunnel and one kilometer (in total) cross-passages inside the mountainous range of lower Shivalik. The main tunnel has the carriageway of 9.35 m with a vertical clearance of 5 m and walkway of 1.30 m on either side,” Kumar said.
“The parallel escape tunnel has 5 m carriageway and 2.50 m vertical clearance. A total of 29 cross-passages are 7 m wide and 35 m long with 2.5 m vertical clearance. It has 124 CCTV cameras installed for surveillance inside the tunnel. A team in the control room will monitor activities of the travelers. In case of any violation, the control room will inform the Traffic Police posted outside the tunnel about the vehicle number and violation. Traffic cops will fine the vehicle-owners on the spot,” he added.
The company in the construction of the tunnel has provided employment to 2000 people and post construction it would employ an additional 100 employees permanently.
Ironically, the project is likely to affect the livelihood of around 150 families of nearly 100-year-old Kud sweet market. No plan has been devised to rehabilitate the affected sweet-sellers.
President Kud Bazaar Association Rajinder Sharma told Kashmir Reader that all 30 shops at Kud (mostly trading in sweets known for desi purity and taste) have not been given alternate employment replacements by the company not by the Jammu and Kashmir Government despite repeated pleas made before them.
“Our businesses have been suddenly reduced to zero by the construction tunnel. All the transport which used to ply through the market will now cross the tunnel bypassing our market,” Sharma said. “Few days ago, when the tunnel was started on trial basis, our business suddenly plummeted to zero. Around an average sale of Rs 15 lakh a day, the market had slump sales of less than one lakh. Nearly 150 people are employed in the market, 75 have already been shown doors,” he said.
Sharma is the third decedent of the family which set up the first sweet shop in Kud in 1925. After his family embarked onto the trade, 30 more persons joined the sweets trade.