Just two days before India’s 75th Independence Day, the world’s highest rail bridge over the Chenab river in the Kouri area of Reasi district, the much-awaited engineering marvel, achieved another milestone when the overarch deck of the bridge was completed with a golden joint on Saturday, 13th August 2022.
The golden joint shall now pave the way for engineers to lay tracks on the bridge. With tracks over it, Kashmir will be linked with the rest of India via rail network for the first time since Independence.
An elated Surender Mahi, chief administrative officer of the USBRL Konkan Railways said, “It was a very big project for all of us. To reach here we had to construct 26 km of approach roads having bridges and tunnels”. Mahi said that the engineers faced several challenges but at last gifted engineering marvel to the people of India.
“In the 90 days pending works of the bridge, including rail tracks, shall be completed and by next two years, i.e, by December 2024, the train will pass over this bridge on way to Srinagar. The work on rail tracks beyond this bridge (Bakkal) towards Srinagar is already on,” said Mahi.
The height of the bridge (from the river bed to the formation) is 359m while the main arch span is 467m with a total steel fabrication of approximately 28,660MT. The other unique features of the bridge are — the use of concrete-filled trusses in the arch and power-operated cars for inspection and maintenance of the bridge, both a first in India; cable crane assembly used for erecting the bridge’s steel members with a span of 915m, one of the longest in the world. One of the pylons of the cable crane at a height of 127m is higher than the Qutub Minar (72m) and is designed to bear earthquake forces of Zone-V.
The bridge has a unique engineering style that had to overcome several challenges due to the geo-morphological character of the area in addition to rough terrain and inclement environment. To meet these challenges, engineers and experts started the work from two opposite sides and then pushed the superstructure on the arch step by step — eventually connecting the centre of the arch on Saturday. The ‘golden joint’ is the last joint of the bridge deck connecting both sides to make one continuous deck.
“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 highest railway arch in the world. The bridge is 35 meters higher than Eiffel Tower,” he said.
“The deck has been completed today with the golden joint and now track will be laid. Thereafter, trolleys will be used for trial runs. Control rooms will be set up,” he said. He informed that the cost of the project was ₹1,450 crore.
“This has been a long journey. The term ‘golden joint’ was coined by the engineers working on the project; it has nothing to do with gold. The golden joint is the most important joint because it not only connects both sides of the deck but also proves the quality and precision of work done by different teams of engineers and workers engaged in the construction of the bridge,” Sanjay Gupta, chairman and MD, Konkan Railway, said.
“The bridge would be 98% complete after the golden joint is finished,” said Afcons deputy managing director Giridhar Rajagopalan. In addition to the Chenab bridge, Afcons is building 16 additional railway bridges for Konkan Railway Corporation Ltd in the inclement terrain of J&K under the Udhampur Srinagar Baramulla Rail Link project.
“This project is going to be a game-changer in Jammu and Kashmir by integrating it with the entire mainland of India and boosting the socio-economic conditions of the Union Territory,” said Surinder Mahi, chief administrative officer, Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Railways.