Leh Manali highway in Ladakh region, Jammu and Kashmir Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg 

Work On Zojila Pass Tunnel In J&K To Commence On August 15, NHIDCL Says

The work on long-pending Zojila Pass tunnel, to be built on Srinagar-Kargil-Leh highway, will begin on August 15, National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corp’s Ltd. (NHIDCL) Managing Director Anand Kumar told BloombergQuint. The contract will be awarded by end of June for which four bids have been received, he added.

The tunnel is part of the NDA-led government's Rs 23,000-crore project of constructing five tunnels on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh with all-weather access by 2024.

Earlier, the Border Roads Organisation was planning to build this tunnel but lost the project due to delays in construction. It was then transferred to NHIDCL to expedite implementation of road infrastructure projects.

“Work on Z morh tunnel which is 9.4 km in length will be completed by April 2020. ILFS is executing the project and has built 200 m ventillation duct till date,” Kumar said, adding that detailed Project Report for Pir Ki Gali, Sinthan Pass, Shudhmahadev are being made.

Zojilla tunnel’s total project cost is Rs 8,000 crore and it will take seven years to complete after the foundation stone is laid on August 15 this year, said Kumar.

The project to build a 14-km single tube bi-directional Zojila tunnel was approved by the Cabinet during the previous UPA government’s regime and it was to be built under public-private partnership (PPP) mode. But since April 2013, bids for this project were invited five times and on four occasions, single bids were received.

In March this year, the government cancelled bid to IRB Infrastructure after Congress member Digvijay Singh alleged irregularities in the award of project to IRB.

“We have received good bidders which include L&T, ILFS, Jaypee Infratech and Reliance Infra for this tunnel. Earlier, the bids were invited on BOT (build-operate-transfer) basis. Not many developers were interested in those. This time, we have invited on EPC (engineering, procurement, construction) basis which means contractor will work and pay. In BOT, the bidder has to invest money from his own pocket,” another NHIDCL official said on the condition of anonymity.

Zojilla tunnel project, which will provide all weather connectivity between Srinagar and Leh-Ladakh, is strategically significant as the road is always covered with snow. The 20-km stretch is located at an altitude of 11,578 feet on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh national highway.