IL&FS bags bid for state-of-art Zojila Highway tunnel

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New Delhi, July 28 (IANS) Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (IL&FS) — makers of the Chenani-Nashri tunnel, the country’s longest highways tunnel so far — on Friday bagged the contract for building the 14.1 km Zojila Highway tunnel which, once completed, will be India’s longest.

The finalisation of tender for the tunnel was possible in its fifth attempt after the Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways and Shipping failed to get more than one bidder in the previous attempts.

The other construction giants who participated in the Rs 8,000 crore tender were Larsen & Toubro (L&T), Jaiprakash Ventures and Reliance Infrastructure (RInfra).

“IL&FS has bagged the tender for the state-of-art Zojila Highway tunnel construction,” a senior officer with the National Highways Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) told IANS on the condition of anonymity.

The NHIDCL, a public sector undertaking under the Ministry of Roads, Transport and Highways (MoRTH) and Ministry of Shipping, was given the task of executing the tendering process for the Zojila Highway tunnel, after repeated failures by the ministry to execute it directly.

According to NHIDCL, the winning bid was by IL&FS which was Rs 4,899.4 crore.

The construction cost for Zojila Highway tunnel would be around Rs 5,900 crore and the remaining amount would be used for other purposes, such as land acquisition, the official said.

NHIDCL had said an advance fee of 15 per cent will be given to the firm that wins the contract.

When IANS tried to contact IL&FS for its comments on the same, the company official was unreachable.

The IL&FS is also the maker of the 10.89-km-long Chenani-Nashri tunnel on the Jammu-Srinagar Highway. Inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April this year, the tunnel reduces the 41-km distance between Chenani in Udhampur district and Nashri in Ramban to 10.89 km and can be covered in 10 minutes, instead of the two-and-half hours needed currently. The Jammu- Srinagar Highway is considered to be the lifeline of the state.

Similarly, the Zojila pass, located at a height of 12,000 feet, is on National Highway 1 between Srinagar and Leh in the western section of the Himalayan mountain ranges.

The two-way tunnel, touted as South Asia’s longest when ready, will reduce travel time from three hours to a mere 15 minutes. The tunnel would have some unique features like pedestrian safety passages every 250 metres, and vehicular safety passage at every 750 metres.

The road inside the tunnel will also have other features like lay-bys — an area at the side where vehicles may pull off and stop — and emergency telephone and communication systems at emergency exits at intervals of 125 metres.

The tunnel, which will provide a new lifeline to the locals in terms of road connectivity, will also have interior and external lighting, CCTV cameras, emergency guidance lamps and proper vehicle guidance systems. It will also be equipped to tackle fire incidents.

The Zojila pass remains snow-bound for most part of the year, rendering road connectivity with Ladakh impossible for seven to eight months. The pass is not just vital for the locals but is strategically crucial for the security of India’s northern frontier.

(Rupesh Dutta can be contacted at [email protected] )

–IANS

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