The 8.5-km long double tube Banihal-Qazigund tunnel along the 270-km Jammu-Srinagar National Highway is going through the testing and commissioning process. The tunnel will serve as connectivity life-line during winter.

According to officials of Navayuga Engineering Company Limited (NECL), it is likely to become operational in the coming weeks, the firm involved in the construction of the tunnel.

"We are presently engaged in the testing commissioning process after the installation of all required equipment including ventilation and electric system," Chief Manager of NECL, Muneeb Tak, told PTI.

Sources at NECL said that the ongoing work is anticipated to be completed within a few weeks, and the tunnel will be open to traffic by the end of this month as per a report in Times of India.

The strategically important project connecting Banihal in Jammu to Qazigund in South Kashmir would bypass the Jawahar tunnel and Shaitan Nalla, which is prone to heavy snowfall and slippery conditions during the winters. Furthermore, the new tunnel has an elevation of 1,790 metres (5,870 feet), 400 metres lower than the elevation of the Jawahar tunnel, making the new tunnel less prone to avalanches.

Also, the new tunnel would cut the distance between Jammu's Banihal and South Kashmir's Qazigund by 16 km from the present 35 km. It is equipped with a state-of-the-art exhaust system and 126 jet fans, 234 CCTVs and a firefighting system.

"A corridor between two tubes after every 500 meters inside the tunnel has been built, and this can be used in case of any emergency in either tube," Tak added.