The construction of one of the two tunnels to avert traffic congestion in the Kuthiran hill region of the busy National Highway 544 stretch between Palakkad and Thrissur is almost complete and it will be opened for road users soon after the mandatory safety inspections.
Construction of the left tunnel, with two km inside the forests in Kuthiran, is over and the approach roads are also in the final stage. Work on the right tunnel will be completed by April end.
Part of the six-laning work of the Mannuthi-Vadakkanchery portion of the National Highway, the tunnels can reduce considerably the travel hours between Kochi and Coimbatore.
Vehicles will take about three hours to travel from Kochi to Coimbatore once the tunnels in the Kuthiran Hills are opened.
The narrow roads meandering through ghat sections creates frequent traffic snarls. The safety inspections are now going on under the supervision of Fire and Rescue Services Director General Tomin J. Thachankary. As per the plan, each tunnel can provide three- line traffic, avoiding the climbing of the hill.
There is a gap of 20 metres between the two major tunnels. The drilling work was conducted using a machine known as boomer. Each tunnel has a width of 13 metres and height of 10 metres. Though it began in 2009 with a deadline of 2012, the six-lining work lagged owing to the hurdles posed by land acquisition. After completion, the facility will be the largest twin tube road tunnel in the country.
Mumbai-based Pragathi Engineering and Rail Project has undertaken the contract. Around 400 people, two boomers, five concrete sprayers, 15 excavators, and 40 dumber vehicles to remove boulders have been working round the clock.