In a recent strategic move, the Road Transport Ministry, the Railway Ministry, and the Border Road Organization (BRO) are planning the country’s first-ever underwater road-cum-rail tunnels, at a cost of about Rs 7,000 crore, across the Brahmaputra River in Assam. Per the plan, three tunnels will run parallel to one another — one for road, rail, and emergency use.
Each tunnel is about 9.8 kilometers in length and this is going to be the first assignment wherein integrated tunnel construction is going to be undertaken. The tunnels will be interconnected with the cross-passage for evacuation in case of emergencies.
The multimodal transportation system targets integrating the highway and rail network via the Jamurihat-Silghat axis toward North Assam, Tawang, and the remaining part of Arunachal Pradesh. It can be used for both strategic as well as civilian purposes.
Per the estimate, the government shall be spending about Rs 7,000 crore for the tunnels. Earlier, National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL), a firm that belongs to the Road Transport Ministry, had proposed twin tunnels for vehicles and provided Rs 12,800 crore as the estimated expenditure. The proposal was prepared by the BRO and the Road Ministry helped reduce the investment after adding one more tunnel.
The tunnel is expected to take off from nearly 9 km upstream of the Kaliabhomora (Tezpur) road bridge. It will be linking the Jakhlabandha railway station and the Dhaliabil railway station on the south and north bank of Brahmaputra respectively.
The underwater tunnel project is envisaged to be an engineering marvel apart. Needless to mention, it will also benefit the country by cutting down the travel time between Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. At present, there are about five bridges across the Brahmaputra.
The tunnels will be using tunnel-boring equipment and machines and may need two to two-and-a-half years to be completed.