Wednesday, July 9, 2008

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Manali-Leh railway link soon

In a major move to push tourism in the hill states and counter Chinese expansion in the Tibetan region, the Railways ministry has prepared a blueprint to set up an ambitious 480 kilometre Manali - Leh railway line link criss-crossing the treacherous mountains in Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir.
The project according to experts will cost over Rs 16,000 crore and the ministry is already preparing a detail survey plan for the project.
A top level government meeting took place in Delhi recently to discuss the survey and other modalities of the project. The distance, according to the plan, will be traversed in around ten hours.
A senior Railway Ministry official said, "A detailed survey plan for the proposed Manali-Leh railway line has been prepared and is under the active consideration of the Railway Board. The expenditure for the survey will be shared jointly by the Himachal Pradesh government and the centre."
The plan is to lay a broad gauge railway track between Jogindernagar and Manali via Mandi and extend it 480 kilometre further to Leh via the Rohtang pass and beyond.
The security concerns are a key reason for building the train line.
"With China building the Beijing-Lhasa railway track, it is critical for India to respond and build the Manali-Leh route both from the security and tourism point of view of India," said Prem Kumar Dhumal, chief minister, Himachal Pradesh.
The proposed railway project is strategically important for India as experts opine that a railway line will be a viable transport alternative in extreme weather conditions.
At present, the main source of connectivity to the border areas is either through the road or air, which frequently gets affected during adverse weather conditions.
Manali - Leh highway which connects tribal areas of Lahaul, Udaipur, Pangi and Ladakh with the rest of the country and goes through the highest mountain passes in the world, remains closed down during the entire winter season.
A rail link will definitely serve India's defence purpose at a time the Chinese are flexing their muscles at our backyard, said an industry expert.
Apart from serving the India's defence interest, the proposed project will provide a fillip to the tourism industry that is one of the major source of revenue generation for the state of Himachal Pradesh.
"I have just returned from Leh and the response I received from the people of Ladakh has been tremendous. The private sector is already showing a keen interest in building this railway track," Dhumal said.
A senior executive of an infrastructure company undertaking railway projects said that the cost of laying a railway track at such a high altitude will be more than double the cost of laying a normal railway track.
Because of the difficult terrain, the movement of vehicles carrying raw materials and other equipment for the project will become costlier.
Moreover, a large amount of tunneling work will have to be undertaken along the proposed route



This tunnel project was conceived way back in 1983 in view of the need to provide an all weather route to Leh and Lahaul & Spiti valley in Himachal Pradesh. Rohtang pass, located 51 km away from Manali, is at an altitude of 3978.0 m (13044 ft) and has been posing serious problem in maintaining the road communication for more than four months in a year, It faces heavy snow fall activity, high velocity winds and sub-zero temperature. Accordingly, feasibility study for the construction of Tunnel across Rohtang pass conducted by M/S RITES. Detail Project Report (DPR) has been submitted for obtaining formal approval from cabinet committee on security. Formal approval for the project is yet awaited. Salient features of the proposed Rohtang Tunnel are given as under:-

Length of Tunnel
9 km
Shape of Tunnel
Horse Shoe shape. Finished width 10.00 m at road level. (8.00 m pavement and 1.00 m footpath on both the sides)
General altitude of the tunnel
It lies between 3000-3100 m altitude
Design speed
80 km/h

Geology of Tunneling media
Uniformally dipping alternate sequence of Quartzites, Quartzitc Schists, Quartz-Diolite-Schist with thin bands.
Temperature variation in the area
25-300 C during May-June

-200 C to -20 C during Dec-Jan
Maximum-1900 m

Average more than 600 m
Construction technique proposed
Drill & Blast with NATM
Support System proposed
Fibre reinforced concrete (100 to 300 mm thick) combined with rock bolt (26.50mm dia 5000 mm to 9000 mm long) has been proposed as principal support system. In poor rock condition yieldable steel ribs (ISMB 150/ISMB 300) have been proposed in addition.
Tunnel ventilation
Semi transverse system of ventilation system has been proposed. Following parameters have been taken in design:-

Upper tolerance limit for concentration

Visibility factor

3000 Nos

1500 Nos

Peak hour traffic
337.50 PCUs

Design vehicular speed in Tunnel

Maximum Speed
80 km/ph

Minimum Speed
30 km/ph
Project Cost

Approximately Rs. 1700 Crore

Approach road to the two ends are required to be constructed to connect the Tunnel proper with the Manali-Leh road and also to mobilize the resources for construction of Tunnel, Initially, only access roads with minimum necessary specifications for mobilization of resources will be constructed. Later the same will be developed to National Highway Double Lane specifications and will then be called as approach road. Formation, surfacing and permanent works are under progress and the upto date progress of approach road is given as under:-

Formation Cutting - 59 %

Surfacing Works - 16 %

Permanent Works