ISLAMABAD: The Lowari Tunnel project will become operational by June, an official of the National Highway Authority (NHA) said on Wednesday.
About unusual delay in the completion of the project, he said, work on Lowari Tunnel project, which started in September 2005, was supposed to be completed by 2008 and as per the PC-1 it was to cost Rs9 billion.
However, its completion time was extended when the then government decided to convert it into a road tunnel in 2009, rather than the rail tunnel as per the original plan. The history shows that the Lowari Tunnel project idea was discussed in the National Assembly of Pakistan by the member from Chitral, Jaafar Ali Shah in 1970s, the official said.
He said work on the tunnel began for the first time in 1975, but it was stopped in 1977 after change of the government on the pretext of the lack of funds and other development priorities.
The work did not resume until September 2005, he said, adding that after its conversion, work on the road tunnel continued slowly due to multiple reasons, including the lack of funds, issues over funds releases between NHA and Korean construction firm SAMBU and prolonged winter season. The present government approved additional funds for the Lowari Tunnel to ensure its completion as early as possible, he added.
After becoming fully operational, the tunnel will reduce the current 14-hour drive from Chitral to Peshawar to only seven hours, the official said. Moreover, people of Chitral have to travel through Afghanistan and then enter back into Pakistan during the winter season when Lowari Top is closed for traffic. Chitral remains virtually inaccessible during winters and the tunnel will facilitate all-weather transportation, he added.
Published in ‘The News’ 04 May 2017