Mumbai's urban tunnel to be ready by January 2013

Mumbai, Aug 24 (IANS) India's first twin tunnel on an urban transport network is nearing completion, heralding a significant infrastructure addition to the country's commercial capital.

The first of the two tunnels, 505-metres long, will provide easy access from south Mumbai to Ghatkopar in central Mumbai. It is expected to be thrown open by January 2013, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) said.

On Thursday, the MMRDA announced that after blasting through five lakh cubic metres, the engineers had drilled through the other end of the tunnel in central Mumbai.

The tunnel is part of the ambitious Eastern Freeway Project and will offer uninterrupted connectivity from south Mumbai to Ghatkopar.

It is expected to rival the ease of travel and time-savings offered by the Rajiv Gandhi Bandra-Worli Sea Link (RGBWSL) on the western side of the Mumbai island.

Costing over Rs.60 crore, the twin tunnels will help improve vehicular movement towards the industrial hubs of Thane, Navi Mumbai, Pune and Nashik on one side and towards south Mumbai on the other.

"We expect to complete the first tunnel by January 2013," said an official from MMRDA, which is implementing the project.

Nearly 130 workers have been working day and night, cutting through 1,300 feet tall mountain to build the tunnel, which is 10-metres high.

To be built as a part of over Rs.200 crore Anik-Panjarpol Link Road project in central Mumbai, the tunnel was drilled through the hill which stands near the the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC).

The twin tunnels are a part of the 22-km freeway stretching from Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) area in south Mumbai to Ghatkopar.

The freeway is likely to cut down travel time from CST to Ghatkopar to 25 minutes from the existing 90-100 minutes, entailing huge savings in fuel.

The Freeway will be a traffic signal-less, toll-free access controlled road.

The MMRDA has rehabilitated close to 5,000 structures, including 30 shrines, while laying down the Freeway.

The twin tunnels are approximately half a kilometre in length each, 17 metres in width and 10 metres in height. There will be four carriageways in each tunnel to facilitate hassle-free traffic movement, akin to the RGBWSL.

The country's first tunnel systems to be built within city limits for urban transport was on Mumbai-Pune Expressway, in adjoining Thane district, and the Jawaharlal Nehru Tunnel on the Jammu-Srinagar highway.

The second of the two tunnels is likely to be opened in mid-2013.

The nine-metre-high and 18-metre-wide tunnels with four lanes each require approximately 1,200 tonnes steel and 75,000 cubic metres of raked debris for the construction.

The next few months will see concretisation of the tunnels from the inside, laying the concrete roads, lights, electrical and other related infrastructure for safe and smooth traffic movement.

"Now that the first tunnel has been opened, construction will be fast. We require another two months of blasting for widening the tunnel and should be able to start electrical work soon," the official added.

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