Shinku-La Tunnel or Shinkula Tunnel or Shingo-La Tunnel is upcoming motorable tunnel under 16,580ft high Shinku-la pass between Himachal’s Lahaul valley and Ladakh’s Zanskar valley in Northern India.
Ministry of Defence through Border Roads Organisation (BRO) is building Darcha-Shinkula-Padum-Nimu as an alternative road to connect Ladakh with Himachal Pradesh. This will be the third highway connecting Ladakh with mainland after Srinagar-Kargil-Leh and Manali-Sarchu-Leh highways.
The Manali-Padum-Nimu road or Darcha-Padum-Nimu road will become all-weather after completion of the Shinku-la tunnel. This will be the safest and shortest road to reach Leh.
As Atal Tunnel, Rohtang, has bypassed 13,050ft high Rohtang pass, Shinkula pass will be the only pass on this new road. Unlike Manali-Sarchu-Leh highway which has many mountain passes, the Darcha-Padum-Nimu road has only one pass — Shinkula pass.
The Defence Ministry is concentrating more on this new road as it will facilitate in military movement even in winter months. Otherwise, both Manali-Leh and Srinagar-Leh highways get blocked following heavy snowfall for five to seven months a year.
Currently, Atal tunnel is the world’s longest highway tunnel above 10,000ft. After completion, Shinku-la tunnel will be the longest high altitude highway tunnel in the world. The work on the 13.5-km-long Shinku-la tunnel is expected to start in 2021.
Length of the Darcha-Shinkula pass – Padum-Nimu highway will be 297 KM. Nimu is 35km from Leh and 185km from Kargil. Darcha is 100km from Manali (via Atal Tunnel) along Manali-Sarchu-Leh highway.
Darcha to Padum stretch was connected last year in September when the Discover Leh Ladakh team became first to drive on this stretch. Nearly 35KM road is still to be made to connect Padum with Nimu. About 100km of the road has been made double-lane.
Shinku La Tunnel specifications
- Name of Tunnel: Shinku-La Tunnel
- Length of Tunnel: 13.5 KM
- Location: Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh and Zanskar, UT of Ladakh
- North Portal: Lakhang, Zanskar
- South Portal: Patseo, Lahaul
- Altitude of tunnel (approximate): 12,500ft
- Altitude of Shinkula Pass: 16,580 ft
- Road: Manali-Padum-Nimu
- Current Status: DPR in progress
Update on October 19, 2020
Aerial survey of Shinku la tunnel with help of Chinook helicopter begins
The airborne electromagnetic survey of Shinku la mountain range has begun with help of a Chinook helicopter that will help engineers in preparation of the DPR of the 13.5km long Shinkula tunnel being built on Nimu-Darcha-Padum axis between Ladakh and Himachal.
The engineers have set a deadline of December to finalise the DPR while international tender of the world’s longest highway tunnel above 12,000ft will be floated before March 31, 2021. A joint venture between Denmark based SkyTEM and Ahmadabad based Anandjiwala Technical Consultancy have been given the task of aerial survey of the treacherous mountain range between Himachal’s Lahaul and Ladakh’s Zanskar. Chinook helicopter of Indian Air Force (IAF) is carrying an antenna weighing 750kg to scan the mountain range. The antenna that has electromagnetic scanner has capacity to read and record structural data up to 800m deep below the mountain surface. The data scanned will be analysed by the engineers to know structure, presence of metals and type of strata before awarding the tender of the tunnel.
“Following the IAF protocols, Chinook will make Stingri helipad of Lahaul its temporary helipad but it will return to Chandigarh every day. The antenna was assembled at Stingri helipad. Trial flights were conducted last week. The aerial electromagnetic surveys have started and will finish in a few days. This technology will save both money and time. The technology is more accurate and will be of more help to the engineers as compared to the Atal tunnel,” an official said.
Meanwhile, samples of soil are being collected after conducting earth drilling at different places. The samples will be analysed in Delhi. According to sources, there were a total of three proposals for the tunnel but two have been rejected and the 13.5km-long tunnel between Patseo on Manali-Sarchu-Leh highway and Lakhang in Zanskar has been finalised.
As India is looking for all-weather road connectivity to Ladakh as soon as possible, a large number of highway tunnels are being built on Zulu (Leh-Srinagar) and Romeo (Leh-Manali) axis. A tunnel beneath Shinkula pass that will make Manali-Padum-Nimu-Leh axis all-weather and provide the safest passage for Indian Army has become the priority of the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The MoD is preferring this route over Zulu and Romeo highways because of its axis being located far from the border and absence of mountain pass. The highway will be mostly straight, safe, with almost no deep valley and will pass through rain-shadow area.
Amid India-China standoff in Ladakh, MoD has appointed National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (NHIDCL), a Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways undertaking company, to prepare the DPR of this strategically important tunnel on Manali-Ladakh axis. NHIDCL is taking help of national and international agencies in making the DPR 100 per cent accurate.
Manali-Darcha-Shinkula-Padum-Nimu highway will be 398-km in length. The Shinku-la tunnel will decrease the distance by about 20km but will decrease the travel time by over one hour. Once the tunnel is complete and the entire length of the highway is four-laned, reaching Leh from Manali in about 10 hours will be possible. According to Border Roads Organisation (BRO) officials, they will connect Nimu with Manali by double-lane highway above Shinku-la pass as the highway will facilitate easy passage of the traffic until tunnel is complete. Nimu to Leh is 35km while Nimu to Kargil is about 185km. The south portal of the tunnel near Patseo is about 125km from Manali. BRO has already stated that they will keep the highway clear of snow till Patseo in winter months.
Update on September 18, 2020
Shinku-la pass to have 13.5km-long tunnel, DPR by Oct 15
World’s longest highway tunnel above 12,000ft from sea level will come up under 16,600ft high Shinku-la pass between Himachal and Ladakh. The detailed project report (DPR) of the13.5km tunnel will be ready by October 15, its tenders will be floated in coming winter season and work will start next year.
Ministry of Defence (MoD) has appointed National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (NHIDCL), a Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways undertaking company, to prepare the DPR for this strategically important tunnel. The company has set a deadline of October 15 to finalise the DPR. NHIDCL officials say they have completed the primary survey and location of the north and south portals of the tunnel have also been finalised.
NHIDCL managing director KK Pathak, executive director Sanjeev Malik and other officials visited north and south portals of the tunnel on Thursday and Friday. On Friday, a small ceremony held in north portal in presence of local residents of Kurgiakh village, the first village of Zanskar valley of Ladakh, where local residents gave traditional welcome to the officials.
KK Pathak said they have speeded up the work of DPR of 13.5km-long Shinku-la tunnel between Ladakh and Himachal. “Centre is giving priority to build infrastructure in border areas of UT of Ladakh and Himachal. We are trying hard to complete the DPR before October 15 as we want to complete the work before winter snowfall. In order to improve the road connectivity and its availability throughout the year, NHIDCL has been given responsibility to prepare the DPR of Shinku-la tunnel. Locals present at the north portal site were extremely happy as they will get all-weather road connectivity,” he said.
Border Roads Organisation (BRO) is making an optional all-weather road to Ladakh via Shinku-la. As Shinku-la pass receives heavy snow in winter months, BRO will build a highway tunnel beneath the pass so that traffic could move year-round.
Earlier a small 4 to 5km-long tunnel was proposed to be built on Darcha-Shinkula-Kurgiakh axis but the engineers are in favour of building this tunnel at quite different location. According to sources, NHIDCL wanted to make the tunnel from near Patseo on Manali-Sarchu-Leh axis. The tunnel’s south portal will be at Patseo, about 30km from Darcha village of Lahaul and its north portal will be at Lakhang in Ladakh’s Zanskar valley. This tunnel will be almost three-times in length but will reduce much more distance.
The Defence Ministry has speeded up all the border road projects in Himachal and Ladakh amid India-China standoff at Ladakh. This tunnel will reduce the distance of 297km-long Darcha-Padum-Nimu road and will help military convoy in reaching Leh in just one day. According to officials, now this tunnel is of most priority of the Centre and work on it will start next year. The tender for the tunnel are likely to be floated in December this year. The work on Baralacha pass tunnel on Manali-Sarchu-Leh highway is also expected to start next year.
Update on September 8, 2020
DGBR visits Shinkula pass as work on another traffic tunnel likely soon
The Director General Border Roads (DGBR) Lt Gen Harpal Singh on Tuesday visited Darcha-Shinkula pass road in Lahaul valley to review the development of the tunnel beneath Shinkula pass, another prestigious project of Border Roads Organisation (BRO) after Atal Tunnel, Rohtang.
As BRO in effort to strengthen border road infrastructure is building the third road to connect Ladakh with mainland via Shinkula, the DGBR visited the pass for the first time to take stock of the current situation. Defence Ministry is keen to complete the work on this new road as soon as possible as it will take lesser time to reach Ladakh compared to Manali-Leh and Srinagar-Leh highways. This highway will also be the safest road to Ladakh for military supply as the road axis is completely away from the border. The visit of DGBR to Shinkula has confirmed that BRO’s next important project will be a traffic tunnel under Shinkula.
Similar to Rohtang pass and Zojila pass, 16,600ft high Shinkula pass receives heavy snowfall during winter months. To make the road all-weather, a tunnel under the pass was required. The detailed project report (DPR) of the Shinku La Tunnel is being developed and work on it is expected to start within two years.
The DGBR who reviewed work of Atal tunnel, Rohtang on Monday, travelled on 40km Darcha-Shinkula road which is being widened and blacktopped. BRO officials explained him about the current status of the road and about primary survey of the Shinkula tunnel.
BRO has speeded up the new border road works and repairing of the existing roads and bridges in reply to China developing infrastructure close to the border. Given the current situation at China-India border at Ladakh, opening Atal tunnel for traffic will make a huge difference as it will not only reduce distance between Manali and Leh by about 46km but also reduce travel time by 2 to 3 hours.
“Looking forward the future aspect of Leh-Manali highway, DGBR took a glance of Shinkula area for development of Shinkula tunnel. As winter season is nearing and given the strategic importance of the Atal tunnel, DGBR is closely monitoring the work through daily briefings,” a BRO spokesperson said.
Atal tunnel, Rohtang, will not make Manali-Leh highway all-weather until similar traffic tunnels are build beneath Baralacha pass, Lachulungla, Nakeela and Taglangla pass. On the other hand, building a tunnel below Shinkula will keep Manali-Darcha-Shinkula-Leh highway open for almost 12 months a year. However, only tunnels will not keep vehicular traffic operational year-round as there will be dozens of avalanche sites which generally keep highway closed for days.
The Darcha-Shinkula-Padum stretch is ready for mid-size vehicles but trucks cannot ply the highway due to narrow road with sharp bends. Half of the Padum-Nimu section is ready and work on remaining is underway. Completion of the entire Manali-Padum-Nimu road for all kind of vehicles is expected to take at least two more years. Once completed, the military supply can be taken from this highway without much effort. Nimu to Leh is just 35km and Nimu to Kargil is about 185km.