Just two days before India’s 75th Independence Day, the world’s highest railway bridge over river Chenab in Kouri area of Reasi district, the long awaited engineering marvel, achieved another milestone when the general decking of the bridge was completed with a golden gasket on Saturday.
The golden joint will now clear the way for engineers to lay tracks on the bridge. With overhead tracks, Kashmir will be linked to the rest of India through the rail network for the first time since independence.
An elated Surender Mahi, Chief Administrative Officer, USBRL Konkan Railways said, “It was a huge project for all of us. To get here we had to build 26 km of approach roads with bridges and tunnels.”
Mahi said that engineers faced several challenges but ultimately gifted engineering is a wonder for the people of India.
“Within the pending 90 days the bridge works including the railway tracks will be completed and in the next two years i.e. December 2024, the train will pass through this bridge towards Srinagar. Work on the railway tracks beyond this (Bakkal) bridge towards Srinagar is already underway,” Mahi said.
“To achieve this feat, we had sought technical expertise from IIT-Roorkee, IIT-Delhi, Indian Institute of Sciences, Bangalore, DRDO, national remote sensing agency, GSI and other agencies. This is the tallest railway arch in the world. The bridge is 35 meters higher than the Eiffel Tower,” he said.
“The deck was completed today with the golden joint and now the track will be laid. Later, carts will be used for testing. Control rooms will be set up,” he said. He informed that the cost of the project was ₹1,450 million.
Sanjay Gupta, chairman and MD, Konkan Railways, said, “This has been a long journey. The term ‘golden joint’ was coined by civil engineers… It is the highest railway bridge in the world.”
“We can state with confidence that the bridge would be approximately 98 percent complete after the golden joint is completed,” said Afcons Deputy Managing Director Giridhar Rajagopalan.
“When we completed the arch closure project last year, we felt great relief at our ability to complete the project accurately so that there were no misalignments. And this gave us great confidence to easily handle the remaining part of the project,” he added.
Afcons is constructing 16 additional railway bridges for Konkan Railway Corporation Limited (KRCL) in the dangerous terrain of Jammu and Kashmir, in addition to the Chenab Bridge. All the bridges are part of the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link (USBRL) project.
Another official informed that the entire 111-km Katra-Banihal railway project faced delays due to challenges like the young terrain of the Himalayas, a tectonically active area with faults and folds.
“However, our engineers are working 24×7 with all their conviction,” he added.
About the bridge, he said: “Because the wind speed is higher in a valley and the bridge structure will create obstructions, we did all our work. Our analysis showed that the bridge has to cope with wind stress of 266 km per hour for three seconds. So we prepared it accordingly. Next, there are speed indicators and alarms at each end of the bridge. Although the area where the bridge has gone out falls into the seismic zone category 4, we have prepared for the seismic zone category 5,” he said.
The project will be a game changer in Jammu and Kashmir by integrating with the entire Indian continent and boosting the socio-economics of the UT.
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