The World Book of Records has officially certified the Atal Tunnel as the 'World's Longest Highway Tunnel above 10,000 Feet' during a landmark ceremony on Wednesday, February 9, in New Delhi.
Lt Gen Rajeev Chaudhry, Director General of Border Roads Organisation (DGBR) received the award for the achievement of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) in constructing this engineering marvel, which connects Manali to the Lahaul - Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh, the Ministry of Defence said.
World Book of Records UK, is an organisation that catalogues and verifies extraordinary records worldwide with authentic certification.
Notably, Atal Tunnel was dedicated to the country by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 3, 2020. The 9.02 km long, strategically significant, Atal Tunnel, that runs under the 'Rohtang Pass' was constructed on the Manali - Leh Highway under the challenging conditions of freezing temperatures in rugged terrain.
Before constructing the tunnel, the highway remained closed during the winter season for six months, isolating Lahaul and Spiti from the mainland, NDTV reported.
Construction of this tunnel has reduced the distance on Manali - Sarchu road by 46 km and travel time by nearly four to five hours, providing all-weather connectivity on the Manali - Leh axis.
Longest Highway Single-Tube Channel
Atal Tunnel is the longest highway single-tube tunnel above 10,000 feet (3,048 m) in the world and is named after former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee. With the existing Atal Tunnel and after the completion of the under-construction Shingo La Tunnel, targeted to be completed by 2024, both the Leh-Manali Highway and the Nimmu–Padum–Darcha road routes are set to become all-weather roads.
The tunnel reduces the overall distance and time travel between Keylong and Manali on the way to Leh. The route, which previously went through Gramphu, was 116 km long and took five to six hours in good weather conditions. People would now reach the South Portal of the tunnel from Manali, a distance of 24.4 km in nearly 45 minutes, goes through the 9.02 km long tunnel in almost 15 minutes and reaches Keylong, 37 km away in about one hour. The new route via the tunnel reduces the total distance to 71 km, covering about 2 hours, reducing around three to four hours compared to the earlier passage. In addition, the tunnel bypasses most of the sites that were prone to road blockades, traffic snarls and avalanches.
The grand tunnel is at an elevation of 3,100 metres (10,171 ft), whereas the Rohtang Pass is at the height of 3,978 metres (13,051 ft). Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated it on October 3, 2020, whereas the cost of the entire project is Rs 3,200 crores.
The project was estimated to cost Rs 500 crore in 2000 and be completed in seven years. On May 26, 2002, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), headed by Lt. Gen. Prakash Suri, PVSM, was put in charge of construction, and Atal Bihari Vajpayee inaugurated the approach road to the tunnel entrance.
However, the project did not continue beyond the tree-felling stage by May 2003. By December 2004, the cost estimate had grown to Rs 900 crore. In May 2007, Dr Manmohan Singh's Congress government gave the contract to SMEC (Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation) International Private Limited, an Aussie company, and the completion date was extended to 2014. However, the project showed no progress for the next three years until May 2010.
Finally, the Cabinet Committee on Security in the UPA government cleared the Rohtang Tunnel Project. The work was awarded to a joint venture of AFCONS Infrastructure Limited, an Indian construction company of Shapoorji Pallonji Group, and STRABAG AG, Austria, in September 2009. The drilling of the Rohtang Tunnel through the Himalayan ranges began on June 28, 2010, at the South Portal, 25 km north of Manali. Some of the anchoring and slope stabilisation work was subcontracted to Spar Geo Infra Pvt Ltd.
PM Modi renamed it the Atal Tunnel, in honour of Shree Atal Bihari Vajpayee on his birthday on December 25, 2019.