Unveiling Rs 10,000 crore road projects for Jammu & Kashmir that include two strategic tunnels - Quazigund-Banihal and Chenani-Nashri - to provide all weather connectivity to the state with the rest of the country, the Centre on Monday said it is committed to rapid growth of the region.

“UPA government is committed to the rapid development of Jammu & Kashmir...Government has taken up road and rail projects worth Rs 30,000 crore. This will be a boost to the state’s economy as it will promote trade and tourism here,” Road Transport and Highways Minister C P Joshi said while laying foundation stone of 8.45 km tunnel between Quazigund and Banihal.

The Banihal tunnel, part of Rs 1,987 crore Quazigund-Banihal project on Jammu-Srinagar National Highway is one of the largest road tunnels in India and the first of its kind to be taken up on public—private-partnership mode.

The tunnel on completion will make the highway, which remains closed for over 40 days in a year due to snow-fall, an all-weather one.

It will also reduce the distance between Banihal and Srinagar by 16 km besides giving a boost to the trade in the region.

The tunnel will also have an emergency lane and a provision for emergency cross passages besides proper ventilation. Apart from the 8.45 km tunnel, a 0.69 km tunnel will also be built there.

“This proposed improvement of Jammu to Srinagar National Highway at a cost of Rs 10,000 crore will benefit large number of road users and will save travel time and fuel,” Mr. Joshi said urging developers and stakeholders to complete it ahead of the scheduled five years’s span.

It needs no emphasis that better infrastructure is pre-requisite to the economic growth, Mr. Joshi said while addressing the function.

The function was also attended by Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy Farooq Abdullah, among others.

Mr. Joshi said his Ministry has undertaken widening of Jammu-Srinagar National Highway under National Highway Development Project phase-II. Four of the mega projects – Jammu-Udhampur, Chenani-Nashri, Quazigund-Banihal and Srinagar-Banihal have been awarded on build operate transfer (BOT) basis.

Two more projects – Udhampur-Ramban and Ramban-Banihal would be awarded shortly, Mr. Joshi said.

“After completion of the project, the distance from Jammu to Srinagar will be shortened by 50 km. The present travelling time of 8-10 hours will be reduced to 4-5 hours”, Mr. Joshi said.