Gorkhatimes

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National Highway 55 shut for 15 days

Posted by Ramesh Khati on August 18, 2009

A part of the national highway that caved in at Paglajhora

A part of the national highway that caved in at Paglajhora

Darjeeling, Aug. 17(The Telegraph): National Highway 55 will remain closed for at least a fortnight as heavy rain in the past couple of days has washed away the road surface over a distance of 20 metres near Paglajhora in Kurseong subdivision.

It takes 30 minutes to an hour more — than the usual three hours taken on Hill Cart Road or NH55 — to travel to Darjeeling through alternative routes like Mirik and Mungpoo.

The Pankahabari Road, another alternative, takes less time, but drivers usually avoid it because of the steep gradient and a number of hair-raising curves and bends. Moreover the road is narrow and off-limits for heavy vehicles.

“It would take at least 15 days for temporary restoration of the national highway at 14th Mile near Paglajhora. A road surface of over 20 meters has been washed away while another 30 metres has sunk because of debris that have tumbled down from the hills,” said Nirmal Mondal, executive engineer, NH (division IX), while speaking over the phone from Siliguri.

Around Rs 35 lakh will be needed for temporary restoration. “After the temporary restoration all vehicles will be able to ply through the highway. But we need permanent restoration to strengthen the road and for that we will need around Rs 30 lakh,” said Mondal.

Prolonged closure of the highway essentially means that there is a possibility of the hills running out of essential commodities, especially if there are major landslides on the Mungpoo and Mirik roads, which anyway increase the travel distance between Darjeeling and Siliguri by about 25km.

B.M. Garg, president, Darjeeling Chamber of Commerce, said: “Traders usually stock food items during monsoon and there is no need to panic at the moment. However, if the other two alternative routes get blocked, there could be some problem.”

The landslide along the national highway has also delayed resumption of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway services between Darjeeling and New Jalpaiguri.

“The tracks had been washed away at two places between Kurseong and Siliguri because of landslides in July this year. We had managed to complete restoration and were thinking of starting the services within the next two to three days. However, with the fresh damage it would now take at least 10 days more to resume toy train services,” said Subrata Nath, director, DHR, over the phone from Siliguri.

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