Highway travel set to ease; Nashri tunnel opening this month

Highway travel set to ease; Nashri tunnel opening this month

Qazigund-Banihal tunnel next year

Chairman, National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) Yudhvir Singh Malik, called on JK Minister for Works Naeem Akhtar here today to review the progress of upgradation of Srinagar-Jammu highway and other key road communication projects in the State.

The Minister was informed that the 9.50 KM long Chenani-Nashri tunnel, which is an engineering marvel, is in the final stage of testing and certification. Once the testing and certification is complete, the tunnel could be opened anytime soon. “If everything goes well, the tunnel could be inaugurated anytime in March,” the meeting was told.

NHAI chairman has been deputed to J&K on a two-day visit by Union Road and Surface Transport Ministry to personally review the progress of the key highway and other road projects in the state and submit a report to the Prime Minister’s Office.

This follows the meeting of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi last week where she had flagged road connectivity as a major area of concern which needed immediate attention.

During his meeting with the Works Minister here today, the NHAI Chairman assured Akhtar that the Authority would ensure that the executing agencies stick to the deadline and ensure completion of works on key highway and road projects in time.

The Minister emphasized expediting work on Srinagar-Qazigund stretch, Qazigund-Banihal tunnel, Banihal-Ramban section and Chenani-Nashri tunnel as part of upgradation of Srinagar-Jammu highway to facilitate hassle-free travel between the two capital cities of the State. He also reviewed the progress of work on Batote-Kishtwar highway and proposed Ring Roads in Jammu and Srinagar. The Minister sought the intervention of the NHAI chairman in expediting the work on these projects of vital importance to the State.

Regarding Batote-Kishtwar Highway, the Minister was informed that the Centre has recently released Rs 100 crores for the upgradation of this highway and it would be completed by December this year.

Regarding Srinagar-Qazigund section of the highway, the Minister was informed by the NHAI authorities that due to the disturbances in the Valley last summer, the work on this important stretch took a big hit. The NHAI chairman, however, assured the Minister that the work is being expedited on this stretch to complete this year.

Regarding Qazigund-Banihal tunnel, the NHAI chairman informed the Minister that the 8.5 km long tunnel is at the breakthrough stage and it would be commissioned in 2018.

Regarding upgradation of 36 KM Banihal-Ramban section, the Minister assured the NHAI chairman that while the state cabinet has already cleared several dumping sites in the area, more such sites would be cleared soon. The NHAI chairman directed his regional officers to immediately make the payment for the dumping sites cleared by the state cabinet and take over the possession at the earliest so that work can be expedited on this important section of the highway.

The meeting was informed that NHAI has simultaneously directed the executing agencies for expediting work on widening of highway between Udhampur and Chenani.

Given the tourism potential of the Chenani-Nashri tunnel, it was decided in the meeting that the State Government and NHAI would develop wayside tourist facilities around the tunnel to develop the area as an independent tourism destination.

Regarding the construction of Ring Roads in Jammu and Srinagar, the meeting was informed that the survey has already been completed on these new roads circling the twin capital cities and land acquisition has been started. Pertinently, around Rs 3300 crore have been earmarked under Prime Minister’s Development Programme (PMDP) for the construction of these Ring Roads.

Regarding new Highways of Batote-Doda via Sudh Mahadev and Jammu-Akhnoor, the meeting was informed that the Consultants have been asked to submit Detailed Project Report (DPR) within 6 months.

The Jammu-Akhnoor Highway has to be extended right up to Poonch via Rajouri. An amount of Rs 5100 crore has been earmarked for Jammu-Poonch Highway via Akhnoor and Rajouri in the Prime Minister’s Development Plan (PMDP).

The Minister also sought the status update on three new Highways approved for the Kashmir valley including Baramulla-Rafiabad-Kupwara-Tanghdar, which has been named as NH No: 701, Baltal-Panchtarni-Chandanwari-Pahalgam-Batakut-Martand-Khanabal, which has been named as NH No. 501 and Srinagar-Shopian-Qazigund, which will be called as NH No. 444.

He also sought the progress of two new Highways approved in Ladakh region including Kargil-Zanaskar in Kargil district, which has been named as NH No. 301 and Leh-Debring-Mulden in Leh district, which has been named as NH No: 3.

Commissioner Secretary R&B, Rohit Kansal, Member NHAI, Neeraj Verma, Regional Head NHAI, Hemraj and other senior officers of the R&B Department and NHAI were present at the meeting.

The NHAI chairman will return to New Delhi Wednesday and submit his report to the PMO and Union Road Surface and Transport Ministry on the progress of projects of importance in Jammu and Kashmir.