Indian Railways has launched the main arch of the world’s highest bridge on the River Chenab in Jammu and Kashmir’s Reasi district which will provide direct connectivity to the Kashmir Valley.
The bridge will soar 359m above the bed of the River Chenab and will be 30m higher than the iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris.
The bridge forms the crucial link in the 111-km stretch between Katra and Banihal which is part of the Udhampur- Srinagar-Baramulla section of the Kashmir Railway project.
“We have begun the work on installations of main arch between two sides of the bridge. We have launched the main arch”, M K Gupta, Member for Engineering, Railway Board, told reporters yesterday.
“The work has been launched simultaneously from both the sides. It is part of a big project. The work is being done by AFCONS through Konkan railways.”
The Chenab railway bridge project was initiated in 2004 but reportedly hit a roadblock in 2009 over safety measures due to the frequency of high-velocity winds in the Reasi region, which will be a major concern for stability.
Officials said that it was finally decided to stop train operations when the wind velocity touches 90km/h with the help of an automatic signalling system and anemometer.
The bridge under construction can withstand winds up to 260km/h and its lifespan will be 120 years.
National and international consultants have been engaged during various stages of the project.
Detailed geo-physical studies, seismic studies and slope stability studies have been included.
The design of the bridge has been made to sustain earthquakes of magnitude 8 on the Richter scale.
To achieve erection of the bridge, pylons were erected on either side of the river, and two auxiliary self-propelled cable cranes were used to tow temporary auxiliary ropes across these pylons.
"Three massive workshops for undertaking fabrication of steel structure have been commissioned at the Srinagar end of the bridge and one at the Katra end of the bridge," Gupta said.
"For launching purposes, arrangements in the form of pylons with cable cranes spanning the entire gorge have been completed successfully.
"The cable crane assembly including pylons at span of 915m is the longest in the world. For the first time a Railways viaduct was launched on curve of 2.74 degrees," he added.
The project is an attempt to boost tourism and it has increased employment opportunities in the Jammu and Kashmir state.
According to reports, more than 1,300 workers and 300 engineers have been working round-the-clock to complete the bridge by May 2019.