The decades-long dream of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s friend, Arjun Gopal, came true on Saturday with the inauguration of Atal Tunnel at Rohtang in Himachal Pradesh. Amar Singh and Ram Dev, sons of Arjun Gopal alias Tshidawa, said their father had suggested the construction of the tunnel to the former prime minister.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday inaugurated the strategically important all-weather Atal Tunnel, which reduces the distance between Manali and Leh by 46 km and the travel time by four to five hours.
Atal Tunnel is the longest highway tunnel in the world, and the 9.02 km long tunnel connects Manali to Lahaul-Spiti valley throughout the year. The valley was earlier cut off for about six months every year due to heavy snowfall.
The tunnel is built with ultra-modern specifications in the Pir Panjal range of Himalayas at an altitude of 3,000 metres (10,000 feet) from the Mean Sea Level (MSL).
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur had earlier said, Vajpayee got the idea for constructing the tunnel on a suggestion from his friend Arjun Gopal of Tashi Dobhe village in Lahaul.