A road trip to Leh in A road trip to Leh in Jammu & Kashmir may soon take less time as the government is planning to cut short the distance between Chandigarh and Leh by about three hours. This would be made possible through a different alignment on the route.
The 310-km Chandigarh-Manali stretch would be reduced by around 30 km, particularly between Kiratpur in Punjab and Ner Chowk in Himachal Pradesh, as five tunnels would be constructed on this stretch.
While the Chandigarh-Manali section would be executed by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), the 475-km Manali-Leh stretch, with nine new tunnels, falls under the Border Roads Organisation.
Construction cost of the Chandigarh-Manali section is expected to be Rs 2,600 crore. The Manali-Leh section is likely to cost significantly more as the terrain is tougher.
According to an NHAI official, the Chandigarh-Manali section is being executed on engineering, procurement and construction basis. It would become functional in another three years.
As per the new engineering design, the new highway would connect the tourist destination through several tunnels of which five would be constructed between Chandigarh and Manali and nine between Manali and Leh.
The Chandigarh to Manali section of the highway is being executed by NHAI and from Manali to Leh by the Border Roads Organisation.
Nearly 200,000 tourists visited Leh in 2015 and the number is expected to increase this year. Leh and its surrounding places like the Nubra valley and the famous Pangong lake have even made it to popular Hindi movies. A popular destination for domestic as well as international travelers, Leh tourism will get a further boost by this endeavor. Manali is also an important hill station enroute. Besides, the area is of strategic importance due to its close proximity to China.
Of the total 100,000-km network of national highways, nearly 8,000-km falls in Himachal Pradesh (2,622 kms), Jammu & Kashmir (2,593 kms) and Punjab (2,769 kms).
As part of its plan to improve connectivity for promoting tourism, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways plans to invest Rs 20,000 crore in upgrading and building the national highway network around Char Dham and Buddhist circuits.
Of the total investment, Rs 11,700 crore alone would be spent on the construction of all-weather roads connecting Char Dham that includes four holy shrines of Hindus — Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri in Uttarakhand.
Besides, the government is also focusing on improving road connectivity to border states. It announced investment of Rs 20,000 crore for development of roads in the northeastern region in the next five years. Under the proposal, 109 road projects with over 7,000 km in length would come up across 13 states, including Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura.