Jammu: It was a splash of pride and happiness with beaming faces all around cheering India’s stunning “engineering marvel” standing tall over mighty Chenab at Bakkal-Kauri in Reasi district on Sunday.
The occasion was the maiden inspection of the world’s highest rail (arch) bridge by the Union Minister for Railways Ashwini Vaishnaw on a special track-trolley of Railways. Bhoomi pujan also formed part of his inspection visit.
The bridge is part of the prestigious and much awaited Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Railway Link (USBRL) project aimed at connecting Kashmir with the rest of the country by train.
“This engineering marvel (bridge) is an epitome of resilience of a nation, its work-force, engineers and the leadership,” uttered Vaishnaw with a proud gleam after finishing his inspection of the rail track, on foot as well as while riding a specially designed trial-trolley.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi has put laser-sharp focus on the development of the country. Chenab bridge, all these tunnels, this project – this is one of the examples. This will become the lifeline of Jammu and Kashmir. This will connect Srinagar and the Kashmir Valley with the rest of the country. The engineers, the technicians, designers and all my friends who have put their blood and sweat into this project, I salute them,” an overwhelmed minister stated.
Union Minister for Railways, Communications, Electronics & Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnaw, who was on the last leg of his two-day J&K tour, was addressing the media. Spelling out its completion deadline, he said that the strategically very significant and crucial Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Railway Line (USBRL) project would be completed by the end of this year or by January-February, 2024.
“After connecting with the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla train service, a specially built Vande Bharat train will be introduced in this rail section as per the vision and determination of the Prime Minister to connect all parts of India with ‘Vande Bharat’ and also end physical and psychological distance with J&K,” Vaishnaw further said.
DISCUSSED SECURITY AND OTHER ASPECTS WITH LG SINHA
The Railway Minister stated that during his meeting with the Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, he had detailed deliberations over security aspects, issues related to land for Cargo terminals and other related aspects about the project.
PROUD MOMENT FOR INDIA, J&K
Describing the occasion as a “proud moment and day for India and J&K”, the Railway Minister stated, “We conducted trolley inspection (of the bridge) today which is done after laying the track to monitor its condition and other technical parameters.”
“This project is very significant for not just J&K as its life-line but is also very crucial for the entire country and its people. I extend my gratitude to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who after taking over the reins of the country, gave a renewed momentum to this project to expedite its completion. The budget allocation for USBRL was about Rs 700-800 Cr per year before 2014. However, PM Modi first doubled its allocation, then enhanced it further to Rs 4000 Cr. Its budget has been increased to Rs 6,000 Cr this year,” he added.
He pointed out that Chenab bridge, Anji bridge and many tunnels were the major components of this bridge and their execution confronting all odds and hostile situations on different accounts would lead to the completion of this project.
Later he shared the proud moment on his official twitter handle as well. “Inspected the Chenab bridge – world’s highest rail arch bridge,” he tweeted along with an excerpt of his presser on this occasion.
As a precursor to the inspection by Vaishnaw, Northern Railway had conducted the first trial run on the single track on March 21, 2023.
J&K INTEGRAL PART OF INDIA; ALIGNING DEVELOPMENT IN UT; PROGRESS OF PEOPLE OF KASHMIR WITH INDIA’S GROWTH STORY
Responding to another media query, Vaishnaw reiterated, “J&K was, is an integral part of India and will always remain so. We (the present dispensation) are focussing to mainstream ongoing development process in J&K so as to make it (J&K) and the people of Kashmir to be an integral part of India’s growth saga.”
In this context, he mentioned, “Yesterday I visited Baramulla, Budgam, Sheikhpora and witnessed energy (vitality) and enthusiasm (vis-a-vis the implementation of development projects) everywhere. The way every village is being equipped with the water facility, the people are also upbeat. Development is being made strictly following all its parameters.”
To substantiate his point as to how Kashmir was witnessing a big change, he narrated his interaction with a child there (during his Kashmir visit). The Union Railway Minister stated, “At one place, a child told me that earlier the schools would generally remain closed and would open rarely. But now the schools remain open and function normally. They are engaged in building a stronger and brighter future (for us).”
“This demonstrates that a big, revolutionary change has swept Jammu and Kashmir. For this I give credit to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and extend him heartfelt gratitude,” he said.
HOW PM MODI INFLUENCED GROWTH TRAJECTORY OF INDIA AND MADE J&K A FULCRUM
“When the country works with a resolute spirit to achieve a daunting objective; it continues to march forward, braving all the challenges with resilience. This is the direction and spirit which the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has infused to ensure uninterrupted infrastructure development and progress in the country. Be it the threat of terrorism (terror attacks) or other challenges (capricious weather, difficult topography), all safety measures have been put in place to deal with these issues with steely determination. Proper security measures have been taken. Even in the case of design, these parameters have been taken care of,” he sought to allay apprehensions about security of this iconic bridge.
WHAT IS SO ICONIC ABOUT THE BRIDGE?
Explaining the stunning features which made the 1.35 km long bridge “iconic and engineering marvel” being constructed at a cost of Rs 1486 Cr, the Railway Minister stated, “Its foundation is as large as half of the football field which can withstand an earthquake of 8 point on the Richter scale and its cabal and arch can withstand the winds of 266 KMPH. Being a “difficult challenge of engineering”, more than 28,000 metric tonnes of steel was used for the bridge structure built in a highly active seismic zone. The deck height of the bridge is 359 metres. The bridge has 17 spans and the linear length of the main arch span is 460 metres and it is curvilinear. The Prime Minister wanted it to last over 100 years. Hence it was designed in a way that it would last 120 years. Just its welding spanned 600 kms. It is taller than the Eiffel tower and its piers are taller than Qutub Minar.”
Citing reasons for delay in the project, he stated that there were several engineering challenges but the most important challenge was that of “will power” of the leadership. “The will power and leadership of Prime Minister Modi made all the difference and made it possible for us to accomplish this project.”
He stated the indigenous Himalayan Tunneling Method (HTM) by engineers to build tunnels for this project. He desired that the HTM papers should be published in journals and the technicalities be adopted worldwide.
CONVERTING JAMMU RAILWAY STATION INTO DIVISION
Replying to a query with regard to Jammu-Poonch Rail link and making Jammu Railway Station a Division, the minister said, “It is a very difficult terrain but very soon new projects will be undertaken. And, special arrangements will also be made and other technicalities will be looked into for converting Jammu into a Division.”
He stated that the government was contemplating to have an international level railway training academy for technical staff, engineers in Jammu.
Vaishnaw also said that three spots were identified from where the bridge was visible and they would be developed as tourist destinations to tap the potential of the region. With regard to water effects to the nearby villages vis-a-vis the project, he said, “A team of WAPCOS (Water and Power Consultancy Services Limited), is already having a detailed scientific study.”