Zojila Pass view
A view from Zojila Pass.Wikipedia Commons

Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services (IL&FS) Transportation has said that it has emerged as the lowest bidder for the Rs 4,899-crore Zojila pass tunnel in Jammu and Kashmir. The project to build the Zojila tunnel is intended to provide year-round connectivity between Srinagar and Leh, two people aware of the development told news agency PTI.

The other bidders for the tunnel project are Larsen & Toubro, Reliance Infrastructure and Jaiprakash Ventures.

Last year, the Road Transport and Highways Ministry had ordered "rebidding" for the project awarded to IRB Infrastructure. The project aims at providing all-weather connectivity between Kashmir valley and Ladakh, which remains cutoff from the rest of the world during winters due to heavy snowfall.

"We wish to inform that the company has emerged as the lowest bidder for the aforesaid (Zojila tunnel) project. The company had quoted an amount of Rs 4,899.42 crore to be constructed in a period of 2,555 days (7 years)," IL&FS Transportation said in a filing to the BSE.

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Zojila Pass
The Zojila tunnel will be built between Srinagar and Leh, Picture: National Highway 1Den.wikipedia.org

The tunnel, to be built at an altitude of 3,528 metres, will provide an alternative to the national highway that connects Srinagar and Leh but remains shut for close to six months due to snow.

Mumbai-based IL&FS' bid of Rs 4,849 crore stunned industry executives as it is lower than the reserve price of Rs 5,630 set by the government, financial daily Business Standard said in a report on Saturday.

Zojila pass is situated at an altitude of 11,578-ft on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh National Highway which remains closed during winters (December to April) due to heavy snowfall and avalanches cutting off the Leh-Ladakh region from the rest of Kashmir.

The company had submitted the bid to the National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) for construction, operation and maintenance of the 2-lane bi-directional Zojila Tunnel with a parallel escape tunnel on the Srinagar-Leh section of Jammu & Kashmir on engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) mode, it said.

Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari had earlier this year said that the government will re-issue tenders for the strategic Zojila pass tunnel by April and work will commence by August.

"We understand the plight of the people in Leh and Ladakh region who face severe crisis during winters when they are cut off from the rest of India for six months. We are committed to undertaking the project and will issue tenders by April. This year, around August 15, we will give appointment date for the important project and start work," Gadkari had said.

On March 1 last year, the Road Transport and Highways Ministry had ordered "re-bidding" for the project, which had been awarded to IRB Infrastructure. The decision was taken at a high-level meeting, chaired by Gadkari, after Congress leader Digvijay Singh alleged that guidelines were violated while awarding the contract.

IL&FS is also the maker of the 10.89-km Chenani-Nashri tunnel on the Jammu-Srinagar Highway. Inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April this year, the tunnel reduces the 41-km distance between Chenani in Udhampur district and Nashri in Ramban to 10.89 km and can be covered in 10 minutes, instead of the two-and-half hours needed currently. The Jammu- Srinagar Highway is considered to be the lifeline of the state.