SRINAGAR: Fresh snowfall over the Pir Panjal range has delayed the opening of the old Banihal road that goes across the Banihal pass and connects Kashmir valley to Jammu.
The opening of the old route was aimed at diverting some of the traffic on the Jammu-Srinagar highway that makes use of the 2.7-kilometer Jawahar Tunnel for crossing the Banihal pass.
A top official of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), which manages this arterial highway, told Kashmir Reader that they were ready with clearance and upgradation of the old route but the recent snowfall on the pass has left them helpless. The road is now s expected to open at the end of this month, the official said.
Earlier, the BRO had said that the old Banihal road bypassing the Jawahar Tunnel will be made motorable and thrown open as an alternative route within a week after being cleared of snow and necessary repairs.
The BRO official told Kashmir Reader that the Banihal pass has received at least one to two feet of fresh snow, putting the clearance process and necessary repairs to halt.
Another official told Kashmir Reader that the snow clearance process will take two more weeks. “We were clearing the snow but fresh snowfall of two feet occurred in the area in the last some days, putting the work to a halt. We have started the work again but it will take a little more time,” the official said.
Once cleared of snow and other necessary repairs, the road will be thrown open for one-way traffic and during any emergency or traffic restriction, this road can be used as an alternative to the 270-km national highway, he said.
He added, “We have started the clearance work from today again, after assessing the condition of the road. If the weather remains good, we’ll make it motorable by up to 31st of March and thereafter throw it open to traffic after getting the final nod from the higher-ups.”
The old Banihal road, also called as Banihal Cart Road, was made in 1915 at a cost of about 40 lakh rupees. It was opened to the public in 1922. Later, it was closed for public vehicles, after the Jawahar Tunnel opened in 1956, facilitating round-the-year road connectivity between Srinagar and Jammu.