Atal Tunnel

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Atal Tunnel
LocationHimachal Pradesh, [India]
Coordinates32°23′54″N 77°08′51″E / 32.3982°N 77.1475°E / 32.3982; 77.1475Coordinates: 32°23′54″N 77°08′51″E / 32.3982°N 77.1475°E / 32.3982; 77.1475
RouteLeh-Manali Highway
Work begun28 June 2010
OperatorBorder Roads Organisation
TrafficMotor vehicles
Length8.8 kilometres (5.5 mi)
No. of lanesTwo (one in each direction)
Operating speed80 km/h (50 mph)
Width10 metres (33 ft)
Public notices of the Project Atal Tunnel at Solang Valley, Palchan - Dhundi road

Atal Tunnel (previously known as Rohtang Tunnel), named after India's former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, is a highway tunnel being built[1] under the Rohtang Pass in the eastern Pir Panjal range of the Himalayas on the Leh-Manali Highway. At 8.8 km (5.5 mi) length, the tunnel will be one of the longest road tunnels in India and is expected to reduce the distance between Manali and Keylong by about 46 km (28.6 mi).[2] The tunnel is at an elevation of 3,100 metres (10,171 ft) whereas the Rohtang Pass is at an elevation of 3,978 metres (13,051 ft). The excavation of the tunnel completed in October 2017 when the blasting from south and north ends joined, and the completed tunnel will open in June 2020.

The Leh–Manali Highway, one of the two routes to Ladakh, will be routed through the tunnel in 2020. The Rohtang Pass receives heavy snowfall and blizzards during winter months and is open for road traffic for only four months in a year. The tunnel will keep the highway open during the winter. The other route to Leh is through the Zoji La pass on the Srinagar-Drass-Kargil-Leh highway which also gets blocked by snow for nearly four months in a year. Construction of a 14 km long tunnel under Zoji La pass has been planned. These two routes are vital to feed military supplies into military sub-sector in the west facing Aksai Chin and the Siachen Glacier.

The Atal Tunnel is not exactly under Rohtang pass; it is slightly west of the pass. The south entrance is north of Dhundi on the other side of the Beas River at 32°21′51″N 77°07′59″E / 32.3642°N 77.1330°E / 32.3642; 77.1330.[3] The northern end of the tunnel meets the existing Leh–Manali Highway near Teling village at 32.4388° North and 77.1642° East coordinates about 10 km west of Gramphu which is the first village after Rohtang Pass on the existing highway.


First time the Moravian Mission in 1860 has talked about the possibility of a tunnel through Rohtang Pass to reach Lahaul and later prime minister Nehru talked about a rope way to Rohtang Pass which again made a point of discussion among the local tribes. After almost 139 years of the first instance, when Atal Bihari Vajpayee became the prime minister and a resident of Lahaul, Arjun Gopal, was known as childhood friend of Vajpayee, the locals insisted Arjun Gopal to meet the Prime Minister and talk about Rohtang Tunnel. Then he moved with two of his companions Chhering Dorje and Abhay Chand to Delhi and after continuous discussions of about one year, finally Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee agreed and visited headquarter of Lahaul in June 2000 and declared that the Rohtang Tunnel will be constructed. A feasibility study for the construction of a tunnel across Rohtang Pass was conducted by RITES.

Rohtang tunnel was planned for ensuring an all-weather road route to strategically important areas of Ladakh and providing round-the-year connectivity to the remote Lahaul-Spiti valley. However, the construction of Rohtang tunnel will provide all-weather connectivity only to the Lahaul Valley of Himachal Pradesh up to Kyelang (Keylong). The all-weather road to Ladakh will require more tunnels: either at Shikunla, or at the passes located on the present Leh-Manali road for a year-round road connectivity to Ladakh.

The project was conceived in 1983[4] and announced by prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on 3 June 2000.[5] However the project did not take off.

Direction board at Solang, showing the roads to Rohtang and Leh

The project was estimated to cost Indian rupee ₹ 5 billion in 2000 to be completed in seven years.[6] On 6 May 2002, the Border Roads Organization was entrusted with the construction of the tunnel.[7]

However, still the work did not progress much and the project did not move beyond the tree-felling stage by May 2003. By December 2004, the project cost estimate had escalated to ₹17 billion.[8] In May 2007, the contract was awarded to SMEC (Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation) International Private Limited, an Australian company, and the completion date was revised to 2014.[9] Despite multiple announcements that the work on the tunnel would begin in 2008,[10] no progress had been made by November 2009.[11]

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[12] after the Cabinet Committee on Security cleared the Rohtang Tunnel Project.[13] Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, in her capacity as the National Advisory Council chief, declared open the tunnel drilling at south end of the tunnel. The drilling of the Rohtang Tunnel through the Himalayan ranges began on 28 June 2010 at South Portal 30 km (19 mi) north of Manali. Some of the anchoring and slope stabilization work was sub contracted to Spar Geo Infra Pvt Ltd.

The Border Roads Organisation (BRO), a tri-service organisation of the Defence Ministry specialising in road and bridge construction in difficult terrains, is overall in-charge of the project. It had initially estimated that the tunnel would be ready for vehicle flow by 2015.[14]

On 25 December 2019, a day on which former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's birthday falls, the tunnel was renamed after him and dedicated to the nation by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.[5]

Status of progress of the project[edit]

Total length of tunnel is 8.8 km.

  • Foundation stone was laid on 28 June 2010.[15]
  • As of January 2012, 2.5 km of the tunnel digging had been completed.[16]
  • As of June 2012, 3.5 km of the tunnel digging had been completed.[17]
  • Only a little progress was made in the next one year due to heavy ingress of water that required constant dewatering and slowed the digging and blasting to a crawl.
  • As of October 2013, a little more than 4 km of the tunnel had been dug. However, about 30 m portion of the roof of the tunnel collapsed towards the north portal on 17 October 2013 and the digging had to be stopped.[18]
  • As of September 2014, 4.4 km of the tunnel, i.e., half of 8.8 km planned length had been dug.[19][20]
  • As of December 2016, 7.6 km of the tunnel digging had been completed. Excavation was expected to be completed in 2017, with opening in the second half of 2019.[21][22]
  • As of 4 May 2017, 7.92 km of the tunnel digging had been completed and breakthrough was expected by Sept/Oct 2017.[23]
  • As of 3 Sep 2017, 276 meters of the tunnel digging work remained.[24] Tunnel to be opened for emergency services like Ambulance to be opened by winters.[25]
  • As of 18 Sep 2017, 170 meters of the tunnel digging work remained and breakthrough was expected by October-end.[26]
  • As on 13 October 2017 both ends of the tunnel met. The Defence Minister, Nirmala Sithraman, visited the site on 15 October 2017.[27][28]
  • As on 22 November 2017, it was decided to allow patients to be carried through the under-construction tunnel only in the gravest of emergency when the helicopter service was not available and not to allow civilians to enter the tunnel before completion due to risks of falling rocks, lack of oxygen in the tunnel as ventilation system was yet to be installed, etc. and likely interruption in construction work due to presence of civilians.[29]
  • Mar 2018: The tunnel may be fully opened for general traffic in 2019 after detailed work of laying concrete road, security points, fire safety, complete ventilation and telephone booths at regular intervals is completed.[30]
  • Sep 2018: the tunnel is being used for evacuation of people stranded in Lahaul after sudden spell of bad weather blocked Rohtang La due to snowfall.[31]
  • Dec 2018: Tunnel to be inaugurated before 2019 end.[32]
  • Jan 2019: 90% work completed. Expected to be inaugurated in August 2019.[33]
  • Jul 2019: Tunnel to be made operational by June 2020.[34]
  • Oct 2019: 100 meters work yet to be finished. To be opened for emergency traffic by Oct-2019 end. To be opened for general traffic by Sep-2020.[35]
  • Nov 2019: Bus service trial started through the yet-incomplete tunnel on 17 November 2019.[36] A Himachal Road Transport Corporation bus carrying 44 passengers entered tunnel from the south portal and the passengers alighted at the north portal. The bus service will run once a day in the next five winter months for residents of Lahaul and Spiti valleys. Private vehicles will not be allowed through the tunnel.[37]
  • Dec 2019: On 25th of December the tunnel, which was known as Rohtang tunnel till then, was officially renamed as the Atal Tunnel, as announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The construction of the tunnel will be before end of 2020.[38]
  • Jan 2020: Atal tunnel to be operational in eight months i.e by September-2020.[39]


The most challenging task was to continue the excavation during heavy snowfall in winter. Excavation for tunnelling was done from both ends. However, as Rohtang pass closes during the winter, the north portal was not accessible during winter and the excavation was being done only from the south portal in winters. Only about one-fourth of the entire tunnel was excavated from the north end and three-fourths was excavated from the south end. There were more than 46 avalanche sites on approaches to the tunnel.[40]

Other challenges to the progress of the tunnel included difficulties in disposing more than 800,000 m³ of excavated rock and soil,[41] heavy ingress of water (as much as 3 million litres per day in June 2012)[4] that required constant dewatering, costlier treatment and slowed the progress of excavation from 5 metre per day to just half a metre a day and unstable rocks that slowed blasting and digging.[42] A cloud-burst and flash flood on 8 August 2003 killed 42 labourers who were building the temporary access road.[43] Questions were also raised on the impact of cutting down more than 700 trees on the ecology.[44]


The tunnel is intended to create an all-weather route to Leh and Lahaul and Spiti valleys in Himachal Pradesh.

Salient features of the proposed Rohtang Tunnel are as follows:

  • Length of Tunnel: 8.8 km (5.5 mi)
  • South portal coordinates: 32°21′49″N 77°08′00″E / 32.3637°N 77.1332°E / 32.3637; 77.1332
  • North portal coordinates: 32°26′21″N 77°09′51″E / 32.4392°N 77.1641°E / 32.4392; 77.1641
  • Shape (cross-section) of Tunnel: Horseshoe
  • Finished width: 10.00 m (32.8 ft) at road level. (8m pavement and 1m footpath on both sides)
  • General altitude of the tunnel: 3,000–3,100 m or 9,840–10,170 ft
  • Designated vehicular speed: 80 km/h (50 mph)
  • Geology of tunnelling media: Uniformly dipping alternate sequence of quartzites, quartzitic schists, quartz-diolite-schist with thin bands.
  • Tunnel boring machines will not be used because of the inability to see inside the mountain, instead blasting and digging will be used to build the tunnel.[1]
  • Temperature variation in the area: 25–30 °C (77–86 °F) during May–June, −30 to −20 °C (−22 to −4 °F) during Dec–Jan.
  • Overburden: Maximum 1,900 metres (6,230 ft), average more than 600 m (1,970 ft)
  • Construction technique proposed: Drill & Blast with NATM
  • Support system proposed: Fibre-reinforced concrete (100–300mm or 0–10 inch thick) combined with rock bolt (26.50mm dia, 5,000–9,000mm or 200–350 inch long) has been proposed as the principal support system. In areas of poor rock condition, yieldable steel ribs (ISMB 150/ISMB 300) have been proposed in addition.
  • Tunnel ventilation: Semi-transverse system of ventilation has been proposed.
  • A 2.25 m high and 3.6 m wide emergency tunnel will be integrated in the tunnel cross-section beneath the main carriageway.

The following parameters have been set in design:

  • (a) Upper tolerance limit for concentration – 150ppm
  • (b) Visibility factor – 0.009/m
  • (c) Vehicles
  • (i) Cars – 3000 Nos.
  • (ii Trucks – 1500 Nos.
  • (d) Peak hour traffic – 337.50 PCUs
  • (e) Design vehicular speed in Tunnel
  • (i) Maximum Speed – 80 km/h (50 mph)
  • (ii) Minimum Speed – 30 km/h (19 mph)[3][45]

Project Cost : Approximately Rs.(INR)40 billion (Euro 250 million)[3]

Safety measures[edit]

A 2.25 m high and 3.6 m wide emergency tunnel will be integrated in the tunnel cross-section beneath the main carriageway for evacuation during emergencies.

The latest Austrian tunnelling method and ventilation system — semi transverse type considered as safest — will be adopted for this project. Heavy snowfall in the Rohtang Pass area is a major concern, especially on the approach roads to the main tunnel. To prevent any damage to the roads and to ensure the safety of the roads and tunnel users alike, avalanche control structures are being constructed. The design for these structures is being provided by the Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment of DRDO.

As the Rohtang tunnel will witness heavy traffic, vehicular management and checking pollution is a priority. For this, CCTV cameras would be placed at a regular distance and will be further connected to two monitoring rooms on both ends of the tunnel. Sensors to check the pollution level will keep on updating the data and if the record is above the desired level, then quantity of fresh air injected inside the tunnel would be increased. Pollution level will be controlled within 90 seconds adding that two heavy duty fans each on both openings of the tunnel will be installed to inject fresh air inside.

The tunnel will have semi-transverse ventilation system, where large fans would separately circulate air throughout the tunnel length. Another safety feature being added is that fire inside the tunnel will be controlled within an area of 200 metres and fire hydrants will be provided on specific locations.

The tunnel will also have public announcement system to make important announcement in emergency situations for which loudspeakers will be installed at regular distances.


  • When completed, the 8.8 km (5.5 mi) long tunnel is also set to become the world longest tunnel at an altitude above 3,000 m or 10,000 ft.[46] The nearest in comparison to the Rohtang Tunnel would be the Anzob Tunnel in Tajikistan (length 5 km (3.1 mi), altitude 3,372 metres (11,063 ft)), Salang Tunnel in the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan (length 2.6 km, altitude 3,400m) and the Eisenhower–Johnson Memorial Tunnel in the United States (length 2.73 km (1.7 mi), altitude 3,401 m (11,158 ft)).
  • There were proposals of installing a Neutrino detector in the tunnel by Panjab University and Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.[47]
  • The 85 km distance from Manali to Keylong on the other side of Rohtang Pass is usually covered by vehicles in about five to six hours, without counting the long hours of traffic jams on the hilly route. The same distance would now be covered in less than half-an-hour through the tunnel and without traffic snarls. Keylong would be just 25 km from the South Portal of the tunnel.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Polgreen, Lydia (31 July 2010). "India Digs Under Top of the World to Match Rival". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
  2. ^ "Importance of Rohtang Tunnel for Lahaul & Pangi resident". The News Himachal. Retrieved 29 July 2012.
  3. ^ a b c "Rohtang Tunnel: Highest Motorable Road Tunnel In The World". Kullu Manali. 16 September 2018.
  4. ^ a b Vijay Mohan (9 July 2012). "Unexpected water ingress delays boring of Rohtang Tunnel". The Tribune. Chandigarh. TNS. Retrieved 29 July 2012.
  5. ^ a b Cabinet nod for water scheme, renaming of tunnel after Vajpayee, The Hindu, 24 December 2019.
  6. ^ "PM reiterates desire for peace with Pak". 7 June 2000. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
  7. ^ "Border Roads to construct Rohtang Tunnel". 6 May 2002. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
  8. ^ "Construction of Rohtang Tunnel". 2 December 2004. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
  9. ^ "Work on country's longest road tunnel to begin next year". 4 May 2007. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
  10. ^ "Rohtang tunnel work to go full steam this year". The Indian Express. India. 29 March 2008. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
  11. ^ "Rohtang tunnel work likely to start next month". 16 July 2009. Archived from the original on 25 January 2013. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
  12. ^ "Afcons Infrastructure : Partners". Archived from the original on 27 December 2011. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
  13. ^ "Work on Rohtang tunnel to begin next year". 31 December 2011. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
  14. ^ "'Rohtang Tunnel to be ready well within 2019'". 19 February 2017 – via
  15. ^ "Engineering marvel: India's highest tunnel to see light of day in October". Hindustan Times. 11 September 2017.
  16. ^ "Working 24X7 to see light at the end of Rohtang". The New Indian Express. 16 January 2012. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
  17. ^ "Rivulet gushes out during Rohtang tunnel digging". 5 June 2012. Retrieved 17 June 2012.
  18. ^ "Part of Rohtang Tunnel Collapses". 19 October 2013.
  19. ^ "BRO Annual Chief Engineers' Conference 2014 : A Curtain Raiser".
  20. ^ "Rohtang tunnel may not be ready before 2019 - Times of India".
  21. ^ "Rohtang Tunnel Records Best Yearly Progress In 2016 - Hill Post".
  22. ^ "Defence ministry checks Rohtang Tunnel progress - Times of India".
  23. ^ "Work on Rohtang tunnel's north portal set to begin".
  24. ^ "Defence ministry official visits Rohtang tunnel - Times of India".
  25. ^ "Medical transit via Rohtang tunnel this winter? - Times of India".
  26. ^ "रोहतांग सुरंग के दीदार को जुटी हजारों की भीड़, रक्षा मंत्री भी करेंगी दौरा- Amarujala".
  27. ^ "रोहतांग टनल का निरीक्षण करने पहुंच रहीं रक्षा मंत्री, बीआरओ अधिकारियों के साथ करेंगी बैठक- Amarujala".
  28. ^ "Himachal polls-2017: Quiet opening to Rohtang tunnel amid election din". 28 October 2017.
  29. ^ "Rohtang tunnel to be used only in severe medical emergency | Chandigarh News - Times of India". The Times of India.
  30. ^ "Rohtang: Rohtang tunnel sure to be completed in time: BRO DG | Shimla News - Times of India". The Times of India.
  31. ^ "210 rescued from Koksar, Lahaul valley".
  32. ^ "जयराम कैबिनेट के 2 मंत्री पहुंचे मनाली, रोहतांग टनल का किया दौरा". punjabkesari. 19 December 2018.
  33. ^ "मोदी इस कार्यकाल में नहीं कर सकेंगे रोहतांग सुरंग का शुभारंभ". Dainik Jagran.
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^ "8.8-km tunnel to make Leh accessible in all seasons". The Times Of India. 2 January 2007.
  41. ^ "Latest News, Breaking News Live, Current Headlines, India News Online - The Indian Express".
  42. ^ "Water ingress, loose rocks delay boring of Rohtang tunnel - The Times of India". The Times Of India.
  43. ^ "60 washed away in Kulu flash floods". The Tribune. Chandigarh. 9 August 2003. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
  44. ^ "Rohtang tunnel to affect area ecology, warn experts". The Tribune. Chandigarh. 11 August 2003. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
  45. ^ "Rohtang tunnel Connection to Lahaul Velly". Knowledgespot. 15 November 2018. Retrieved 15 November 2018.
  46. ^ "Rohtang tunnel: Sonia launches Rajiv's dream project". 28 June 2010. Retrieved 26 July 2012.
  47. ^ PU plans sub-atomic detector in Rohtang

External links[edit]