Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is all set to inaugurate the long-awaited Lowari Tunnel today, which has been completed with Rs 27 billion against the initial cost of Rs 7 billion.
In 2015, the government approved additional funds for a revised PC-I of the Lowari Tunnel, and indicated that it would be completed by October 2017.
Construction on the Lowari Tunnel began in September 1975, originally as a railway tunnel, but work was stopped in 1977 after the change of government. Work on the tunnel resumed on September 2005, with a scheduled completion date of three years. However, the completion time was extended after it was decided to convert the project from a railway tunnel to a road tunnel.
The tunnel is located on Nowshera-Mardan-Malakand-Chakdara-Chitral National Highway (N-45). Inauguration of the 8.5 km long tunnel will provide all-weather connection of Chitral with the rest of the country.
Scope of the project includes construction of two tunnels (8.5 km and 1.9 Km), access roads and 12 bridges (35 km)
The construction of Lowari Tunnel has been a long standing demand of the people there. The project will enhance economic growth through accelerated trade activity, generate employment opportunities for the locals, promote tourism and reduce travel time for passengers of commercial traffic.
The incumbent government had approved additional funds for Lowari Tunnel to ensure its completion as early as possible. Over Rs 13 billion including Rs 2 billion in 2013-14, Rs 3 billion in 2014-15, Rs 4 billion in 2015-16 and Rs 4 billion in 2016-17 have been released by the current government for the completion of the Lowari Tunnel.
The project will not only connect far flung and inaccessible areas of Chitral with the rest of the country but would help generate employment opportunities for hundreds of thousands of people besides promoting tourism, business and industrialization in these areas.
All kinds of vehicular traffic would pass in the tunnels (with 24 feet width and 16 feet height). It could be open 24 hours, even in harsh winter season with a speed limit of 40 kilometers.
National Highway Authority (NHA) spokesperson said that once its operational, the tunnel will reduce the current 14-hour drive from Chitral to Peshawar to only seven hours. The spokesperson also confirmed that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will inaugurate the Lowari Tunnel on Thursday.