A marvel in steel

A mighty monument of engineering prowess takes shape in the mountain terrains of J&K; the world’s highest arch rail bridge over the Chenab is all set to connect the ends of the state at a height of 359 m above the riverbed, 35 m higher than the Eiffel Tower, says Fayaz Wani
A marvel in steel

JAMMU&KASHMIR: A historic feat of engineering takes shape; trains will soon begin traversing the world’s highest arch railway bridge, the Chenab Bridge, in Jammu and Kashmir. The awe-inspiring structure not only a milestone in engineering but also represents a monumental step towards realising the long-held dream of connecting Jammu and Kashmir’s rail network with the rest of India.

The Chenab Bridge, constructed over the Chenab River in the Reasi district, stands as a testament to human ingenuity and resilience. Built at a cost of `1,456 crores, the bridge soars 359 meters above the riverbed, making it 35 meters higher than the Eiffel Tower. Its arch span of 467 meters solidifies its status as a marvel, blending structural strength with aesthetic appeal.

Designed by German firm LAP, with viaduct design by WSFP Finland Limited and proof consultancy by a UK firm, the Chenab Bridge is not only an engineering marvel but also a fortress. In collaboration with the DRDO, the bridge has been made blast-proof and can withstand high-velocity winds of up to 266 kph at deck level. It is also built to endure extreme weather conditions, including temperatures as low as -40°C.

Spanning over 1,315 meters, the Chenab Bridge is designed to last about 120 years. Trains will be able to travel at speeds of up to 100 km/h on the bridge, with all necessary safety measures in place to ensure smooth and secure travel. Supreet Singh Raina, SCN Chenab Bridge, highlights the extensive efforts made to ensure the bridge’s resilience against severe earthquakes, given its location in a high seismic zone.

The construction process, which began in 2005 and gained momentum after 2013, involved the fabrication of 29,000 MT of steel, over 10 lakh cubic meters of earthwork, 66,252 cubic meters of concrete, and 84 kilometers of rock bolts and cable anchors. At its peak in 2017, the project saw around 3200 workers and engineers working simultaneously, with a small colony of 52 residential blocks set up to facilitate uninterrupted work.

Before construction could commence, 26 km of approach roads and a 400-meter-long tunnel were built to access the site. With the completion of the bridge and the rail track from Sangaldan to Reasi, a trial run of an MEMU train was conducted on June 20. More trials are scheduled before the regular train services commence.

Next week, the Commissioner of Railways Safety (CRS) D C Deshwal will conduct a three-day inspection of the 46-kilometer Sangaldan-Reasi rail track. This inspection is crucial for the approval of regular train services, extending rail connectivity from Baramulla in North Kashmir to Reasi in Jammu.

Currently, train services run from Baramulla to Sangaldan in Ramban district and from Jammu to Reasi. If the CRS gives the green light, it will mark a significant leap towards connecting Kashmir with the rest of India via the railway network. The Chenab Bridge’s opening will foster social integration by facilitating the movement of people and goods, promoting cultural exchanges, regional development, and boost economic activities, tourism and trade.

Once the Bridge is operational, only a 15-18 kilometer stretch from Katra to Reasi remains to complete the ambitious 272-kilometer Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link (USBRL). Of this, 209 kilometers have already been commissioned in phases. The final stretch includes the T1 tunnel, which is expected to be completed by the end of this year, realizing the dream of rail connectivity from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.

Bridging people

This rail link, at a staggering 359 metres above the Chenab River will reduce Kashmir’s dependency on the 271-km Srinagar-Jammu highway, which frequently closes due to landslides. The all-weather rail link will significantly contribute to the economic development of J&K, boosting tourist footfall and providing cheaper transport for goods, especially for fruit growers, fostering improved trade and access.

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