Atal Tunnel, the longest highway tunnel built at an altitude of more than 10,000 feet, has witnessed three accidents within three days of its inauguration by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and BRO chief engineer of the Tunnel, Brig KP Purushothaman has blamed reckless and negligent driving by tourists for the accidents.
He added that a few tourists created a ruckus inside the tunnel. Some were clicking selfies while others threw caution and traffic norms to the wind. “This indecent behaviour by the tourists was caught on cameras installed inside the tunnel,” he said.
Purushotman added that he had taken up the matter of safety and traffic management inside the tunnel with superintendents of police (SPs) of Kullu and Lahaul-Spiti.
The BRO official said that he had requested the state police to prepare an SOP for traffic management. On Sunday, three vehicles had collided inside the tunnel due to speeding; however, no case was registered as the motorists reached a compromise.
Meanwhile, Himachal’s director general of police (DGP) Sanjay Kundu said that as an interim arrangement, one reserve battalion has been allotted to Kullu and Lahaul-Spiti district police for control and management of traffic and law and order in the tunnel. The 9.02km long tunnel has been divided into two parts–a 4.5km stretch from south portal side will be manned by the Kullu police while the other half will be manned by the Lahaul-Spiti police.
He said that the BRO has set up control rooms at both north and south portal of the tunnel and a SI rank officer has been deployed at each control room.
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Kundu said that police will also setup barriers at Solang and Teling for checking of vehicles before crossing the tunnel. No explosives or petroleum products will be allowed to be transported through the tunnel.
“Apart from this, we have drawn standard operating procedures (SOP) for vehicles crossing the tunnel and managing traffic. A proposal has been sent to the government for setting up police stations at both north and south ends.
Police have set up a board of officials that visited Jawahar Tunnel in Banihal and Dr Shayama Prasad Mukherjee tunnel in Chenani-Nashri to study the security setup adopted by the police in the UT.
The panel was headed by inspector general of police (security) Daljit Thakur. Recommendations of the board were submitted to the government, said Kundu.
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