NEW DELHI: Work on the strategically important Zojila tunnel was kicked off by Union Minister Nitin Gadkari on Thursday, who exuded confidence that the project will be completed ahead of schedule.
The tunnel—which will connect Srinagar Valley and Leh—is being constructed by Megha Engineering & Infrastructure Ltd (MEIL), who won the bid with a project cost of Rs 4,509.5 crore earlier this year.
The 14.15-km Zojila tunnel project is strategically important since the Zojila Pass is situated at an altitude of 11,578 feet on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh National Highway, which currently remains closed during winters.
Once completed, the tunnel which is touted as Asia’s longest, will reduce travel time on the stretch from the current 3 hours to 15 minutes. “It is a moment of pride for India. I am confident that it will be completed in four years and the PM will inaugurate it before the code of conduct for the next Lok Sabha elections,” Gadkari said. The project has a completion schedule of 6 years.
It had been re-awarded to MEIL after the authorities terminated the previous contract awarded to an IL&FS group firm, which had abandoned the project, citing financial constraints.