Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has inaugurated the world’s highest-altitude tunnel, called Atal Tunnel, in Rohtang Pass in the state of Himachal Pradesh.

Built in the Pir Panjal range of the Himalayas by the Border Roads Organisation, this all-weather tunnel spans 9.02km and connects Manali to the Lahaul-Spiti valley in Himachal Pradesh.

With a roadway of 8m and an overhead clearance of 5.525m, the tunnel has been designed to provide connectivity to commuters throughout the year, even during the winter when the region witnesses heavy snowfall.

Previously, the valley was cut off for about six months each year due to heavy snowfall.

The new tunnel will have the capacity to accommodate 3,000 cars and 1,500 trucks per day with a maximum speed of 80km per hour.

Built at an altitude of 3,000m from the mean sea level, the horseshoe-shaped tunnel is a single-tube double-lane infrastructure equipped with advanced technologies.

With entry barriers at north and south ends, the new tunnel features air quality monitoring devices, CCTV cameras, evacuation lighting and a broadcasting system throughout its stretch.

It also includes telephone connections and fire hydrant mechanisms at every 60m.

With the opening of the new tunnel, the distance between Manali and Leh will be reduced by 46km and the travel time by about four to five hours.

Prime Minister Modi said: “Atal Tunnel is going to be a lifeline for a large part of Himachal Pradesh, as well as the new Union Territory of Leh-Ladakh and would reduce the distance between Manali and Keylong by three to four hours.

“Now parts of ​​Himachal Pradesh and Leh-Ladakh will always be connected with the rest of the country and would witness speedier economic progress. Farmers, horticulturalists and youth will now also have easy access to the capital of Delhi and other markets.

“Such border connectivity projects will also aid the security forces in ensuring regular supplies to them and also in their patrolling. The Prime Minister lauded the efforts of the engineers, technicians and workers who risked their lives in making this dream come true.”

Meanwhile, the renovation of the road to Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO), close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in easter Ladakh region, is expected to be complete by the end of October, reported India Today TV.

Construction of the Durbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie route (DS-DBO) was one of the reasons for the military standoff between India and China.

Border Roads Organisation director general Lieutenant General Harpal Singh told India Today TV: “The black topping of the DBO road will be completed by the end of this month. Other than DBO road, projects in Demchok and Kargil are also underway. There are many roads coming up in eastern and western Ladakh.”