With a third critical ‘breakthrough’ achieved in the longest tunnel coming up on ‘Hindu Hridaysamrat Balasaheb Thackeray Maharashtra Samruddi Mahamarg’ at Igatpuri in Nashik, the construction company, Afcons is hopeful of completing both the tunnels by September-end, officials said here on Tuesday.
The third breakthrough on the right hand side tunnel was completed on Tuesday – three months ahead of schedule – by teams of Afcons Infrastructure Ltd on the Package 14 of the Greenfield project of Mumbai-Nagpur Super Communication Expressway.
“This breakthrough makes the north portal connectivity to south portal direct and seamless through the right hand side tunnel. We plan to achieve the final breakthrough by September-end and complete both the tubes,” said Afcons Project Manager Sekhar Das.
The development comes over five weeks after the Shapoorji Pallonji Group company notched a breakthrough on June 29 on the 7.78 kms long tunnel and 35 metres wide (17.50 metres in each tube) coming up between Igatpuri (Nashik) and Vashala (Thane) in a hilly forested region.
This tunnel is part of the 13.10 kms long Package 14 handled by Afcons for the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) on what officials say is the fastest moving package on the expressway.
The 701 km-long east-west expressway linking the state capital Mumbai with its second capital Nagpur, is expected to be partially operational by September 2021 and fully completed by May 2022, slashing the travel time between the two cities by from the existing 16 hours to barely 8 hours.
Besides, the longest tunnel, Afcons package has two small viaducts – of 900 metres and 1.20 kms – which would enable passage to the wild animals in the forested region where the expressway will not be fenced, according to Das.
The expressway, being built at a total cost of around Rs 55,000 crore, will have two other smaller tunnels – 1.10 kms and 300 metres long besides a vertical shaft and one inclined shaft to provide ventilation to the two tubes.
Das said that the entire tunnel for which work started in September 2019, was dug up using the drilling-blasting method at an average speed of over 200 metres for nine months and achieving the highest speed of 258.40 metres at one point despite huge Covid-19 restrictions, heavy rains and other challenges.
He added that a major portion of Afcons package comprises tunnel works and so far 98 per cent tunneling has been completed, with just 250-metres left on the left hand side tunnel targeted for completion by September-end.
The Mumbai-Nagpur Expressway will zip through 10 districts – Thane, Nashik, Ahmednagar, Jalna, Aurangabad, Buldhana, Washim, Amravati, Wardha and Nagpur, besides giving connectivity at strategic points to another 24 districts of the state’s total 36 districts.