Chenab bridge project in J&K on course

The construction of the iconic Chenab Arch Bridge, which will soar 359 metres above the bed of the river and will be 30 metres higher than the Eiffel Tower in Paris, will reach another milestone with the completion of its majestic arches in a couple of days, officials said on Saturday.

Recently, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal announced that the bottom ends of the main arch were connected. With the completion of the upper arch, the two will now be closed. Next, the tracks will be laid.

The bridge, which will be the world’s highest bridge once completed in December, will provide all-weather connectivity to Kashmir with the rest of the country seamlessly.

It is part of an ambitious 272-km rail link project in Kashmir, which is being constructed by the Northern Railway at an estimated cost of Rs 28,000 crore to connect the valley to the rest of the country.

Railway officials said the bridge can withstand earthquakes with a magnitude of up to eight and high-intensity blasts.

It will have a design speed of around 100 kilometres per hour with a lifespan of 120 years. It will include a 14-metre-wide dual carriageway and a 1.2-metre-wide central verge.

The bridge will include 17 spans with a 469-metre main arch across the Chenab river and viaducts on either side and according to officials, steel was chosen to construct the bridge as it will be more economical and able to resist temperatures of minus 20 degree Celsius and wind speeds of above 200 kilometre per hour.

Preparations for a rail link in the Kashmir valley began in 2002 when the government planned to connect Baramulla, Kashmir’s northernmost city, to New Delhi. But despite being prioritised by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government as a “project of national importance”, the construction was delayed.

The biggest setback was the construction of the Chenab bridge, which faced several delays, mostly due to inclement weather conditions and contractual issues.

While the work on the bridge started in July 2017 with a target of completing its construction by the end of 2019, it came to a halt due to contractual issues in 2018. The revised deadline is now December 2021. The cost of constructing the bridge is Rs 1,300 crore. The last remaining section of the rail link, Katra-Banihal (111 km), is currently under execution. It is targeted for completion in December 2022. Work on 126 km of the 174 km of tunnels on the section has already been completed.