Mumbai-headquartered IRB Infrastructure Ltd has clinched a massive contract to build the Zojila Pass—a 14.08-km tunnel in Jammu & Kashmir—said to be the longest tunnel yet in southeast Asia. The Rs.10,050-crore project will be developed by IRB under a 22-year concession period. IRB will receive a semiannual annuity of Rs.981 crore from Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MORTH), the grantor of concession. The project gestation period would be seven years, given that construction work would be possible only for six months of the year. Construction work is likely to start in October this year.
Apart from the tunnel, the project will also involve construction of an 11-km approach road with three vertical ventilation shafts; a snow gallery of 700m, avalanche protection measures etc.
The Centre, though having received a single bid for Zojila Pass tunnel, was keen to proceed with the same given the strategic importance of the project. The Zojila Pass is situated at an altitude of around 11,500 ft on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh national highway and remains shut for 4-5 months (December to April) due to heavy snowfall and avalanches. The tunnel will help connectivity to the Ladakh region (comprising the districts of Leh and Kargil) during winters.
A release from IRB Infrastructure noted that with this project, the company marked its footprint in the ninth India state. The Zojila Pass contract took the company’s overall order book to around Rs.16,430 crore. This contract is also believed to be the biggest national highway project in terms of cost, awarded thus far.