The Indian Railways on Monday achieved a major milestone by completing the arch closure of the 1315m Chenab bridge, the world’s highest railway bridge in Jammu and Kashmir.
Terming it one of the biggest civil engineering challenges faced by any project in India, the Railways added that at 359m above the river bed level, the bridge would be 35 metres higher than the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has lauded the completion of Arch closure of the Chenab Bridge.
In a tweet, Mr Modi said that capability and trust of the countrymen is setting an example before the world. This feat of construction does not only showcase growing prowess of India in the field of modern engineering and technology but also is an example of changing work culture marked by the ethos of ‘sankalp se siddhi’.
”A moment of pride for India! The arch of Chenab bridge, connecting Kashmir to Kanyakumari has been completed,” Railway Minister Piyush Goyal tweeted.
A moment of pride for 🇮🇳! The arch of Chenab bridge, connecting Kashmir to Kanyakumari has been completed.
With an arch span of 467m, it is the world’s highest railway bridge.
— Piyush Goyal (@PiyushGoyal) April 5, 2021
The Chenab bridge is part of the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla rail link project (USBRL) and completion of the steel arch is an important construction milestone. “This was one of the most difficult part of the bridge over Chenab. This achievement is a major leap towards the completion of the 111-km-long winding stretch from Katra to Banihal,” the Railways added.
The arch consists of steel boxes, which will be filled with concrete to improve stability.
The bridge will provide the much-needed all-weather connectivity between Kashmir and the rest of the county. It is part of an ambitious 272-km rail link project and is being constructed by the Northern Railway at an estimated cost of ₹28,000 crore.
The bridge will be able to withstand earthquakes with a magnitude of up to eight and high-intensity blasts. The bridge, which will include a 14-metre dual carriageway and a 1.2-metre-wide central verge, will have a design speed of around 100 kilometres per hour with a lifespan of 120 years.
The preparations of the rail link began in 2002 and the initial plan was to connect Kashmir’s northernmost city Baramulla to New Delhi. The project was given high priority by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Atal Bihari Vajpayee government but the project suffered several delays owing to the weather conditions and contractual issues
“It is a historic day for the Northern Railways and a milestone in the completion of the USBRL project, connecting Kashmir with the rest of the country. The project will be completed within two and a half years,” Northern Railway General Manager Ashutosh Gangal said.
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal watched the lowering of the closure segment of the arch by cable crane through a video link from Delhi. Senior officers, including Mr Gangal and Konkan Railway Chairman and Managing Director Sanjay Gupta, attended the function.
“The self-supporting arch is an engineering marvel and has brought us closer to our goal of the dream project. After the completion of the arch, we will move further, and are hopeful of completing the bridge within a year,” Mr Gangal said.
The Railway Ministry said that the 5.6-metre last piece of metal (closure segment) was fitted at the highest point of the arch on Monday. It joined the two arms of the arch that currently stretch towards each other from both banks of the Chenab, it said.
“This completed the shape of the arch. After completion of the arch work, removal of the stay cables, filling of the concrete in the arch rib, erection of the steel trestle, launching of the viaduct and track laying work will be taken up,” the ministry said.
Mr Gangal said that the construction of the bridge involves fabrication of 28,660 metric tonnes of steel, 10 lakh cubic metres earthwork and 66,000 cubic metres of concrete.
“The arch consists of steel boxes in which concrete will be filled to improve stability. The stay cables which are presently holding the arch will be removed as it has become self-supporting after the installation of the last piece,” Mr Gangal said.
He said the overall weight of the arch is 10,619 metric tonnes and “the erection of members of the arch by overhead cable cranes was done for the first time by the Indian Railways”.