The Indian railway runs from the extreme north to the extreme south ends of the country and has a length span of about 64,000 km. It has successfully connected the entire country and is the cheapest mode of conveyance. India is a country of great geographical diversity. Indian railway is spread in each and every corner of the country and even in some of the most complex terrains. The world’s highest railway bridge is built by the Indian Railway and is a work of the Kashmir railway project. It is known as the Chenab Railway Bridge.
Chenab Railway Bridge
Kashmir lies in the northernmost part of India and has various geographical terrains. Kashmir is known for mountains and elevated lands that gives beauty to the state.
Originating from the top of the Himalayas the Chenab River flows from Himachal Pradesh to Jammu in Kashmir and finally reaches the plains of Punjab and Pakistan. The river produces power through various hydropower projects.
Kashmir Railway Project
The Kashmir Railways as a part of the Northern Railway took up the Kashmir Railway project of constructing a bridge over Chenab River, connecting Bakkal and Kauri of Riasi district of Jammu and Kashmir. The construction of the Chenab Railway Bridge as a part of the national railway project was a result of an urgent need to provide better transportation solutions for the locals of mountainous terrains of Jammu and Kashmir.
Chenab Railway Bridge had started its construction long back in august 2004 but due to various complications, the project kept on getting paused. Initially, it was expected to be finished by the end of 2009 but according to the Kashmir railway project update it had to be stopped in 2008 due to some complications regarding the design and stability of the bridge. It was resumed again in the year 2010 with the target of getting finished in 2015 but had to be halted again. It finally resumed for the last time in 2017 after a thorough review of the details of the project which was approved in 2012 and Chenab Bridge finally came under active construction in 2018. It was more than halfway finished by November 2019. The project was finally finished on the 5th of April 2021.
The Chenab Bridge is the world’s highest railway bridge and stands on one single arch made of steel. It is the first of its kind to be constructed in India. Steel was chosen as the bridge material as it is economical and can resist low temperatures and high-speed wind of the Kashmiri terrain. The concrete pillars can withstand explosions of high magnitude and can withstand high magnitude earthquakes as well. It is at a height of about 360 m above Chenab, making it the world’s highest railway bridge. It is even 30 m higher than the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
The Chenab Bridgeis about 1,300 m long. Initially, two pylons were erected on either side of the river which was about 100 m high and two cable cranes were used to tow auxiliary ropes across the two pylons temporarily. The arch was constructed eventually with the help of these constructions. The bridge has been painted using special corrosion-resistant paint which can last up to 15 years.
- Amberg Engineering: Reviewed alignments.
- Konkan Railway: Project execution.
- Afcons Infrastructure, Ultra Construction & Engineering Company of South Korea and VSL India 2004: Jointly ventured design and construction.
- WSP Group (Finland) and Leonhardt Andra and Partners (Germany): Consultant partners.
- VCE Consult ZT-GmbH: Pylon designing for the bridge.
- Jochum Andreas Seiltransporte: Cable installation for the pylon.
- AkzoNobel: Bridge painting services.
- AECOM: For providing technical guidance as well as monitoring services for design and construction.
Challenges and Difficulties
The Kashmir railway projectwas declared a national project in 2002. Kashmir railway project was an extremely challenging project due to the topography of the region. A large number of tunnels and bridges had to be implemented. The highest railway bridge of India and the world is built in mountainous terrain which itself is an extremely challenging task. There is a hydropower dam named Salal Hydro Power Dam by the Chenab Bridge near which is present a deep gorge and crossing that was considered the biggest challenge and the most difficult task. Another difficulty was to avoid the obstruction of the flow of Chenab. This was the first time in India that a bridge was constructed incrementally on a transition curve. The cable cranes which were used for the construction were the largest in the world. The construction required about 25,000 MT of steel, 46,000 m3 of concrete and about 80, 00,000 m3 of excavation.
The Chenab Railway Bridgewill provide access to the valleys of Kashmir from Udhampur. It is expected to help in the economic growth of the state as well as the country and also provide better commute availability within the state and the country.
The total cost required for the project was about Rs. 5.12 billion ($92 million). The Chenab Railway Bridgeis expected to have a lifespan of 120 years. Its safety will be monitored using aerial security and online monitoring and warning system during critical conditions.
As per the Indian Railway News, the world’s highest rail bridge will open in December 2021. The Chenab Railway Bridge is a historic development of India which was the result of numerous hardworking researchers, scientists, labourers, technicians, engineers who faced grave hazards and challenges to successfully construct the world’s highest rail bridge. This is a great step taken to connect Kashmir to the rest of India through the railway.