High Costs Hinder Himachal Road Tunnel Projects

Shimla: Uncertain about the funding for high cost tunnel projects, the Himachal government is focusing on shifting the design patterns by puncturing hills to connect valleys across mountain ranges rather than traversing over high passes to achieve connectivity.

Other than three tunnels proposed in Shimla city for overcoming traffic congestion, highway tunnels have been proposed between Sundernagar with Kullu, a new tunnel at Ranitaal in Kangra, one at Swarghat in Bilaspur and one under Kahra Pattar in Shimla hills.

Even though design engineers have prepared detailed project reports for the three tunnels proposed in Shimla that are to inter-connect the city and ease traffic problems, sources privy to the matter disclosed that the government has not succeeded in securing funding under Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission.

The funds marked under JNNURM for roads and transport are not more than Rs 90 crore for a five year period, which are too meager to construct such tunnels, said the official who chose not to be identified.

Having failed to move JNNURM, the government is learnt to have made out its case before the new finance commission, whose awards are expected to be announced soon.

While emphasizing the importance of road tunnels, PC Kapoor, principal secretary PWD said that JNNURM funding was a matter with the urban development department. “As far as we are concerned, detailed project reports of many tunnel projects are under preparation.”

Besides the tunnels in Shimla city, we are exploring various options for executing the road tunnels projects, he said.

The government is actively considering getting the Swarghat tunnel project that would considerably reduce the highway road distance constructed under private-public partnership mode, he added.

Kapoor said that tunnel constructions for improving road connectivity was high priority and the detailed projects under preparation were taking every aspect including environmental concerns into consideration.

“Experience has shown that going around a hill or over a high altitude pass rendered the maintenance costs of roads to increase, snowbound conditions cut off connectivity and before the road stabilized much damage to environment came about,” he said.

Puncturing hills to achieve road connectivity would overcome some of these problems. Once the detailed reports are ready, then financial institutions like NABARD, Asian Development Bank or World Bank would be approached for funding them, he said.

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