ISLAMABAD: The Lowari tunnel project would becompleted and will become operational by March next year,said an official of National Highway Authority (NHA) on Monday.
About unusual delay in the completion of the project he saidthat work on Lowari tunnel project which started in Sept 2005 was supposed to be completed by 2008 and as per PC-1 it was to cost Rs 9 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.
Answering a question, the official said that total allocation as per revised PC-1 of the Lowari road tunnel was Rs 18.13 billion.He said that the recorded history shows that the Lowari Tunnel project idea was discussed in the National Assembly of Pakistan by the member from Chitral, Jaafar Ali Shah i nearly 1970s.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 lack of funds and other development priorities.The work did not resume until Sept 2005.
He said that after its conversion, work on the road tunnel continued slowly due to multiple reasons including lack of funds,issues over funds releases between NHA and Korean construction firm SAMBU and prolonged winter season.
The present government after coming to power approved additional funds for a revised PC-I of the Lowari Tunnel to ensure its completion as early as possible.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during his visit to Chitral in October 2015 directed NHA to complete the project on priority basis. He said that after becoming fully operational,the tunnel will reduce the current 14-hour drive from Chitral to Peshawar only seven hours. 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 winter and thetunnel will facilitate all-weather transportation.