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Wirtgen’s tough mission in the Himalayas

Image courtesy of Wirtgen.

Content provided by Wirtgen

Two Vögele pavers involved in the construction of the Zoji-La Tunnel in India.

A mission like no other: Deep in the inaccessible Himalayan mountains, at an altitude of more than 3,500 m, a SUPER 1400i and a SUPER 1800-3i from Vögele were involved in the construction of what is probably India’s most ambitious tunnelling project to date. The Zoji-La Tunnel, named after the mountain pass of the same name, provides a year-round, weather-independent connection between the regions of Ladakh and Kashmir and, at a length of approximately 13 kilometres, is the longest road tunnel in Asia.

Suitable pavers for tough conditions

The asphalt work was carried out by one of the country’s largest infrastructure companies: Megha Engineering and Infrastructures Ltd. (MEIL), based in Hyderabad, is a global company specialising in projects in challenging environments.

For the paving work inside the tunnel, the company used the Universal Class paver SUPER 1400i from Vögele: Across a stretch of 15.5 km, the paving team laid a 6 m wide and 18 cm thick layer of dry lean concrete (DLC). To pave the section outside the tunnel, including access roads and bridges, that covered a length of 16.4 km at a width of 10.5 m, the company opted for another Universal Class paver, the SUPER 1800-3i with the AB 600 TV extending screed. As the most powerful tracked paver in its class, it covers a wide range of applications and impressively proved its worth even in the harsh geographical conditions of the Himalayas.

Three layers in two lanes

The Universal Class paver applied the new surface in three layers: On top of the 10 cm thick cement-treated sub-base layer (CTSB) was an 11 cm thick crack relief layer (CRL) that was specially adapted to the terrain. Finally, a 6 cm thick surface course made of bituminous concrete (BC) was applied on top.

Particularly economical and sustainable

The mixture used for the surface course consisted partly of material that had accumulated during construction of the tunnel. Due to the heavy volume of traffic, the route could not be closed off completely. MEIL therefore decided to pave the road in two lanes, one with a width of 5 m and the other with a width of 5.5 m, allowing one lane at a time to be open to flowing traffic.

Powerful levelling technology for accurate paving profiles

To ensure accurate paving profiles, the paving team took advantage of the Vögele Niveltronic Plus automatic levelling system when applying the three layers. The fully integrated system is tailored to the machine technology of the SUPER pavers and offers a convenient selection of sensors for every job site situation. A cross slope sensor and a height sensor were used in the rough terrain of the Zoji-La road construction project with its many bends, gradients, and inclines. The measured height on one side of the screed in combination with the cross slope gives rise to consistent, accurate paving profiles across the entire working width. This meant that the road level could be maintained at all times despite the numerous bends and curves.

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