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Track-laying work on world’s highest railway bridge starts

The Northern Railways’ engineers Tuesday, 21 February 2023 kick-started the track laying work on world’s highest railway bridge on Chenab in Reasi district, as a part of its prestigious Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link (USBRL) project.

Announcing this, Konkan Railways stated, “On completion, the bridge will be a game changer for the people of Jammu and Kashmir.”

Earlier, the Ministry of Railways on its official Twitter handle also described the beginning of “track laying work on Chenab bridge” as “another milestone in the USBRL project.”

“Once completed, this bridge will open up new possibilities for the remote regions of Jammu and Kashmir,” it shared the tweet with a collage of pictures vis-a-vis track laying work in progress.
Earlier on January 16, the Ministry of Railways had hinted at the possibility of early completion of this long-awaited project while mentioning that with an overall progress of 90 percent – connecting Kashmir to Kanyakumari was “almost there.”

The Ministry, however, had not given any specific deadline for completion of the project, which was, as per initial schedule, likely to be completed by June, 2023.

It had shared that the tunnel mining was almost completed with 162.6 km of 163.88 km work having finished. Similarly, 31.3 km out of 117.7 km track laying was done (as on January 16, 2023). While all 11 minor bridges were complete; five major bridges out of 26 were yet to be completed. Eighty percent work on seven stations too was accomplished.

“Connecting Kashmir to Kanniyakumari: Almost there! USBRL Project Overall Progress- 90%…..Katra-Banihal Section Completed Works….Tunnel Mining: 162.6 km of 163.88 km…Track Laying: 31.3 km of 117.7 km…Bridges – Major 21 of 26; Minor: All 11….7 Stations: 80 %,” its tweet had read.

On September 30, 2022, during a review meeting on the progress of work on Katra-Banihal stretch, the Railway officers had apprised the Divisional Commissioner Jammu Ramesh Kumar that the work was expected to complete in June 2023.

The total length of the USBRL is 272 kms, out of which 161 km has already been commissioned, while work on the remaining length of 111 km from Katra to Banihal is in progress. It was informed that the land acquisition was completed and the majority of it was provided to the railways in both the districts (Reasi and Ramban) for execution of work.

On August 13, 2022, the “golden joint of deck” over Chenab bridge was launched. A construction marvel in the tough Himalayan terrain, the USBRL will provide all weather connectivity to the people of J&K.
Konkan Railway Corporation Limited (KRCL) is the executing agency of the Northern Railway, which has undertaken this highly prestigious and strategically very significant project.

Chenab bridge, a mega iconic structure, is a part of this project. It is being constructed across a gorge of the Chenab river in Reasi. It is an arch bridge having a total length of 1315m and is 359 m above the river bed.

This mega structure is 35 m higher than the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Launching of the 785 m deck over the Chenab arch bridge was carried out by joining prefabricated portions and then launching them from both ends. The Golden Joint was the last joint of the bridge deck, which connects both sides of the deck at the arch, to make it into a continuous structure. After aligning the two sections of the bridge in place, it was fastened by means of HSFG (High Strength Friction Grip) bolts.

According to Railway officers, there are many firsts associated with this project viz., power operated cars for inspection and maintenance of bridges, being provided for the first time in India. A continuous health monitoring and warning system is being provided for State of Art Instrumentation. Cable crane assembly used for erection of steel members of the bridge has a span of 915 meters, one of the longest in the world. One of the Pylon of Cable cranes at a height of 127m is higher than the Qutub Minar of 72 m. “For the first time, the bridge has been designed for blast load in consultation with DRDO besides a phased Array Ultrasonic Testing machine is being used for inspection of welds,” they maintain.

According to officials, for the first time, NABL (National Accreditation Board for Laboratories) accredited Lab has been set up at site for testing of welded elements in Indian Railways and the bridge is designed to bear earthquake forces of zone V.