The Zojila tunnel project to provide all-weather connectivity between Srinagar, Kargil and Leh has commenced in the north Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.

At 14.2km, this will be the country’s longest road tunnel and will reduce the time taken to cross the Zojila pass from the present 3.5 hours to just 15 minutes.

The project will also be the longest tunnel in Asia and is scheduled to complete in five years at a total cost of Rs68.09bn ($998m).

It is expected to offer employment opportunities for local people.

“This tunnel will feature a transverse ventilation system, emergency lighting, CCTV monitoring, and pedestrian crossings at every 250m.”

Situated at an altitude of 11,578ft on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh National Highway, the Zojila pass gets closed during winters as a result of heavy snowfall. This eliminates connectivity of the Ladakh region with Kashmir.

Inaugurating the project, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: “The centre and the state government are working together to take the development work forward.

“Today alone there will be either inauguration or foundation stone laying for projects worth Rs250bn. This is a testimony to the centre’s commitment to the development of the state.”

This tunnel will feature a transverse ventilation system, CCTV monitoring, emergency lighting, pedestrian crossings at every 250m, fire-fighting units and emergency telephones.

Modi also laid the foundation for the 42.1km Srinagar Ring Road be built at a cost of Rs18.6bn and 58.25km-long Jammu Ring Road at a cost of Rs20.23bn.