Srinagar, Dec 31: The 434-km-long Srinagar-Leh highway, connecting the Union Territory of Ladakh with Kashmir, was on Thursday closed for winter months due to slippery road conditions.
The announcement to close the highway, which is the only link of Ladakh with Kashmir valley, came hours after 300 passengers, who were stranded at Zojila Pass due to the slippery road conditions, were rescued by BEACON in the intervening night of Wednesday and Thursday.
“The Srinagar-Leh national highway has been closed for any vehicular movement for six winter months due to slippery road conditions,” a traffic police official told UNI.
He said the decision was taken as it was becoming very dangerous to ply vehicles on the snow covered road, which now remains slippery throughout the day the due to sub-zero maximum and minimum temperatures.
This was for the first time that the highway remained open till December 31 though the road was closed several times during the last over two months due to slippery road conditions following snowfall. The highway in previous years used to be closed for traffic in the first week on December.
The highway every year remains closed during winter months due to accumulation of 10 to 15 feet of snow, particularly at Zojila, Meenmarg, Zero point, India gate and Drass, the second coldest place in the world after Siberia.
An official said that 122 RCC of Beacon along with other machinery and workers launched an operation late last night soon after receiving information that about 300 passengers, onboard 106 vehicles, were stranded at Zojila due to slippery road conditions. “After hectic efforts, all the passengers and vehicles were rescued safely from Zojila Pass,” he said.
The centre in October launched the blasting of the Zojila tunnel, which will provide for all-year connectivity between Kashmir valley and Ladakh though Srinagar-Leh Highway.
The 14.15km long tunnel will be built at an altitude of about 3000 m under Zojila pass (presently motorable only for 6 months in a year) on NH-1 connecting Srinagar and Leh through Dras and Kargil. The stretch is one of the most dangerous in the world to drive and so the project is also geo-strategically sensitive.
While Zojila Tunnel will be 14.15m long, the approach road’s length will be 18.63 km which means the entire project’s length is 32.78 km. The project will make the travel on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh Section of NH-1 free from avalanches and enhance safety. It will also reduce the travel time from more than 3 hours to 15 minutes, the government said in a statement.