Tunnel To Kullu Manali Turns Dangerous As Summer Traffic Rises

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March: The 2.8 km-long motor able tunnel built on Chandigarh-Manali national highway at near Aut has become very lethal for traffic coming from both side.

The tunnel, through which thousands of vehicles pass way every day, which is being maintained by Himachal Pradesh electricity board the agency with no experience to regulate the traffic and maintaining roads.

Inappropriate lighting and lack of safety measures in it are causing mishaps inside the tunnel. A bus and a truck had head-on collision inside tunnel few months back. A bus and a jeep collided inside the tunnel on July 30.2016. Several minor accidents are being stated from the tunnel. The tunnel, which has no safety arrangements, invites a big mishap.

The state electricity board, which has nothing to do with road building and traffic regulations, is responsible for the maintenance of this major motorable tunnel of the state which is the only opening to Kullu and Lahaul-Spiti districts.

It is prudent to mention here that a portion of the National highway had submerged in water after building of Larji dam and there after electricity board had dug this tunnel to resume the traffic flow.

The 2.8 km long motorable near Aut tunnel invites mishap

State Police have no arrangement to keep a check on traffic flow inside tunnel. Mostly, the vehicles once enter the narrow tunnel cross the speed limit and also overtake other vehicles. As the visibility inside tunnel is very low and tunnel has two internal turns, drivers generally get confused when suddenly another vehicle comes from opposite side. Road does not have any speed breaker and the road is also in dilapidated condition. The workers working to maintain the tunnel are without safety gears risking their life’s.

According to sources of Public works department ( PWD)  an agreement with the electricity board at time of building of the tunnel that all maintenance works would be carried out by by Himachal Pradesh electricity board.

 Sources added that “We don’t have expertise of maintenance of such tunnel. The highway will be taken over by NHAI after it is converted into four-lane.”

Mandeep Singh Resident Engineer Himachal Pradesh electricity board while speaking to Hill Post  said that the department was spending nearly Rs thirty lakh per year in maintenance of the tunnel which was major reason why PWD was not interested in overtaking it. Mandeep said that tunnel has three edits for emergency evacuation but does not have fire extinguishers, telecommunication facility, CCTV cameras and radar to check over speeding. He added that main reason for accidents or mishaps is over speeding and high beam light of the vehicles. Although warning signals and reflector warnings are displayed to warn the driver to maintain the speed of 45-50 kms per hr but it has been observed that vehicles  are found over speeding by 100kms per hour and  over taking inside the tunnel resulting in fatal accidents.

Mandeep disclosed that according to the 1948 Indian standard the lighting inside the tunnel should be at the distance of 15 mts  but we have put the light at the distance of 13 mts. He disclosed that there are 496 lights working in side the tunnel

Electricity board Resident engineer Mandeep said it’s very expensive to maintain the tunnel and the board is spending about Rs 30 lakh per year in lighting and cleaning the tunnel. “Our staff deployed for Larji hydel project site is more involved in the maintenance of the tunnel. We are not looking at traffic regulations but our job is to illuminate tunnel day and night and keep it clean.”

Sanjay Dutta, an engineer by qualification but is a journalist by choice. He has worked for the premier new agency Press Trust of India and leading English daily Indian Express. With more than a decade of experience, he has been highlighting issues related to environment, tourism and other aspects affecting mountain ecology. Sanjay Dutta lives in a village close to Manali in Kullu valley of Himachal.

2 Comments

  • Balkrishna says:

    Himachal Pradesh Electricity Board should collect Toll to maintain tunnel discipline , CCTV, road safety before and beyond tunnel 2 km . This is great challenge for Himachal Pradesh Electricity Board will maintain .

  • Ninad Bodhankar says:

    I wonder, how Sanjay Dutta could read my mind. On our way to Manali and back between 21 to 23 March, I had expressed the same feelings with my civil engineer wife. Being a geologist, the tunnel needs roof support at many places. The internal surface drainage needs to be maintained. There has to be illuminated signages through out the tunnel. Speed breaker/ controllers need to be placed at the entry, bends and exit of the tunnel. Retroreflective boards and signages are imperative. The PHCs need to be alert. Happy driving.

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