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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Swat motorway tunnels by FWO set a new trend in Pakistan

Prime Minister Imran Khan Friday visited Swat Expressway and inaugurated three tunnels that will significantly reduce travel time for commuters

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Prime Minister Imran Khan unveiled the plaque to mark the inauguration of these new tunnels on Swat Motorway and also inspected these three newly completed tunnels constructed by Frontier Works Organization (FWO). Federal Minister for Communications Murad Saeed accompanied the Prime Minister. Murad is MNA from Swat.

On his arrival at Zulam Kot, Malakand, the Prime Minister was received by Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Mahmood Khan and Director General (DG) FWO.

Briefing the Prime Minister, DG FWO said the 80-km-long Swat Expressway had seven interchanges and three tunnels with lengths of 1,266, 271, and 324 meters respectively. From its own side, FWO has also constructed a 140 metres long Rockfall Shelter on one of the carriageways for safety of commuters.

FWO also has installed Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system for controlling various features of these tunnels including air ventilation/ quality, fire fighting system, CCTV monitoring, lighting, communications and alarm systems. Later, the Prime Minister also took a tour of the newly completed tunnels section of the Expressway. DG FWO presented a 3D model of the tunnels section of Swat Expressway to the Prime Minister.

Read more: Swat Expressway: Modern gateway to ancient valley of romance & beauty

The Khyber Pukhtunkhwa government has successfully constructed Pakistan’s first provincial motorway from its own resources.

Created in 1966 to deal with the mammoth task of constructing the Karakoram Highway (KKH), FWO is the brainchild of the Pakistan Army Corps of Engineers. Since then, FWO has constructed and operationalized a wide variety of development projects in the country, Makran Coastal Highway, M8 highway, Lahore-Sialkot Motorway, Kartarpur Corridor, Road network in erstwhile FATA to name a few. That is why FWO was the primary contractor for Swat Expressway project in light of its unmatched experience in similar projects.

Swat Expressway boosts connectivity across Malakand Division

Swat Expressway constructed by FWO has reduced journey time for commuters, especially tourists and traders. It also benefits the entire Malakand Division comprising Swat, Dir Lower, Dir Upper, Chitral Lower, Chitral Upper, Bajaur, Buner, and Shangla districts.

The project which started in May 2017 is now a gateway to tourist destinations like Swat, Malam Jamba, Kumrat, Kalam and Chitral Valley. It also complements upcoming mega projects in its vicinity including CPEC City Nowshera and Rashakai SEZ.

Phase-I of Swat Expressway is 80 kilometres long, originating from Kernal Sher Khan Interchange in Swabi district on the Peshawar-Islamabad Motorway and ending at Chakdara Bridge on National Highway N-45 at the far south of Swat Valley in Dir Lower district. Former KP Chief Minister Mr Pervaiz Khattak had performed its groundbreaking on August 25, 2016.

Swat Expressway is a 4-lane (2×2) controlled access facility, with extendable provision of converting into 6-lanes to cater to future transportation needs. According to the road map of the Expressway, the project has seven interchanges, three twin tube tunnels and twenty-six bridges.

The project was able to generate jobs for more than 400 workers. It also provides direct access to fruit markets of Swat and Dir valleys to the rest of the country. The project was completed at a total cost of Rs 36.2 billion.

Read more: The Karakoram Highway – A forerunner of CPEC

The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) has recently approved the acquisition of 10,000 Kanals land for Swat Expressway Phase-II, which would be constructed from Chakdara to Fatehpur Madayn with an estimated cost of Rs 37 billion, besides Rs 20 billion for the cost of land.

The completion of Swat Expressway Phase-I has opened opportunities of trade, business and tourism for Malakand Division. The distance between Peshawar and Swat will be reduced to nearly two hours, which earlier used to take about four hours due to the narrow Malakand Pass.

FWO emerges as trend setter in tunnel engineering in Pakistan 

Countries, the world over, construct tunnels and underground spaces for many purposes – may it be for smooth regulation of road and railway traffic, evacuation and disposal of stormwater or sewerage from metropolitan cities or reaching inaccessible areas in mountains. Their added advantage is that work continues below the ground while life goes on as usual on the surface with no impact on the environment.

During the last few decades, significant progress has been made in the design and construction of underground spaces worldwide but it is an irony that this technology hasn’t seen widespread application in our country. Pakistan could embark on massive use of tunnels especially for enhancing/ improving its highway network in GB, AJK and KP, and easing out urban flooding phenomenon in Karachi and Lahore.

Read more: Makran Coastal Highway: Balochistan’s bridge across time and space!

FWO is a trend setter in tunnel engineering in the country, having constructed numerous tunnels at various places. It has highly qualified experts and technical manpower for execution of tunnel projects anywhere in Pakistan. It has also started construction of Tunneling Institute of Pakistan where the Organization intends formally promoting, supporting and utilizing tunnel technology in Pakistan.

The Government should look into those numerous possibilities associated with construction of tunnels in mountainous regions in the country which can ensure better service delivery to the people and spur economic growth in those regions.