Work begins on Zozila Tunnel – the longest tunnel road in Asia

Tunnel will ensure all-weather connectivity between Srinagar valley and Leh on NH-1

Work begins on Zozila Tunnel – the longest tunnel road in Asia

New Delhi: Work on the Zozila Tunnel in J&K began on Thursday with ceremonial blasting. The tunnel will provide all-weather connectivity between Srinagar valley and Leh (Ladakh plateau) on NH-1, and will bring about an all-round economic and socio–cultural integration of Jammu & Kashmir (Now UTs of J&K and Ladakh).

According to the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, it involves construction of a 14.15 Km long tunnel at an altitude of about 3000 m under Zojila pass (presently motorable only for 6 months in a year) on NH-1 connecting Srinagar and Leh through Dras and Kargil. It is one of the most dangerous stretch in the world to drive a vehicle and this project is also geo-strategically sensitive.

The project was first conceived in 2005 and its Detailed Project Report (DPR) was prepared by BRO in year 2013 on BOT (Annuity) mode. Attempts to award the project four times weren’t successful. The project was eventually given to NHIDCL in July 2016 for implementation on EPC mode. Its work was awarded to M/s. ITNL (IL&FS). Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid foundation stone at Leh and commenced the work on 19.5.2018. The work progressed up to July 2019, and thereafter M/s. IL&FS went into financial problems and the project was stuck. Hence, the contract was terminated on 15.01.2019.

Thereafter, in February 2020, Nitin Gadkari, Minister for Road transport & Highways, reviewed this whole project in detail. In order to reduce the cost and to execute the languishing project on priority, referred the matter to an expert group under the Chairmanship of I.K Pandey, DG (RD) & SS, MoRTH. The Expert group suggested modalities of project configuration and implementation, to achieve project completion in least possible time and cost.

Work begins on Zozila Tunnel – the longest tunnel road in Asia

After due consultation with tunnel experts and other stakeholders, the expert group submitted its report on 17.5.2020, which was approved by the Minister, RTH on 23.05.2020.

The salient features of the report:

  1. Construction of two-lane Bi-directional single tube tunnel without parallel egress/escape passage.
  2. Reduction in construction shafts from 3 to 2.
  • The Design Speed in tunnel to be 80 KMPH.
  1. Adding approach road of 18 km (Net road length is 12 KM) from end of Z-Morh tunnel to start of Zozila tunnel with Avalanche protection structures such as Catch Dams, Snow Galleries, Cut & Cover, Deflector Dam, etc. to make it an all-weather connection between two tunnels.
  2. The modified cost worked out was Rs. 4429.83 crore & it would reduce the travel time from more than 3.5 Hours currently to just 15 Minutes to travel through the tunnel.
  3. To take up integrated project of Zozila tunnel and approach road from Z-Morh to Zozila with avalanche protection for all weather connectivity.

Work begins on Zozila Tunnel – the longest tunnel road in Asia

Consequent to approval, NHIDCL invited the bids on 10.6.2020. Consequent upon Technical qualification of all three bidders, financial bids were opened on 21.8.2020 and M/s. Megha Engineering & Infrastructure Limited was awarded the work for its quoted rate of Rs 4509.50 crore, and the Letter of Acceptance (LOA) was issued on 25.08.2020.

The capital cost of approach road from Zozila Tunnel to Z-Morh tunnel (18.63 Km) to make the road all weather was worked out to be Rs.2335 Crores as per the DPR. The construction cost of Zozila tunnel was worked out at Rs. 6575.85 Crores after considering the escalation @ 5% per annum and the total capital cost of the project as Rs.8308 Crs by NHIDCL. Thus, the total integrated cost of the project including Zozila tunnel and approaches upto Z- Morh tunnel works out to Rs.10643 Crores. Now comparing to the present cost of the integrated project, based on the tender received at Rs. 4509.5 Crs, the total capital cost of the project would be Rs. 6808.63. Thus, after re-modelling of the project and reaping the benefit of integrated project management by segregating the egress tunnel & utilizing the excavated rock material in construction of approaches, generated from tunnel boring, resulted in an anticipated saving of Rs. 3835 crore besides resolving the issue of muck disposal to a great extent.

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