Srinagar: In May this year, the General Manager of Northern Railways made a statement declaring that Kashmir will be connected with the rest of the country through the railway link by the end of 2023. As this year is approaching an end, and with the current pace of work it is evident that the ‘Kashmir to Kanyakumari’ dream will soon be a reality.
The Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Railway Link (USBRL) is an all-weather, cost-effective line that will be a boon to the economy of the Union Territory. By this month, the railway link has generated five crore man-days of employment. The first three phases of the project are complete. Trains are operational between Baramulla-Banihal in Kashmir Valley and Jammu-Udhampur-Katra in the Jammu Region. The work on the topographically challenging 111-km section between Katra and Banihal is ongoing.
The Railways have granted an opportunity to districts such as Reasi and Ramban to find suitable employment and more work. Medical facilities, education, and business activities are now more accessible to the population. Today the work on more than 75 per cent of the total 37 bridges and 97.6 per cent of tunnels on the Katra-Banihal section is complete. So far, the construction of this section alone stands at Rs 30,672.34 crore.
The Railways have built more than 205-km long approach roads which include a tunnel and 320 bridges. 73 villages of the region which were earlier only accessible by foot or boats are now a part of our civilization through this railway connection. 65 per cent of the people employed in railway construction are locals.
Between the 137-km Banihal-Baramulla corridor rail link, Kashmir will soon get its first electric train. The project which costs a total of Rs 324 crore will be inaugurated on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti (October 2) this year. The project has three main substations – Qazigund, Budgam, and Baramulla – which will supply power to the overhead equipment of the line. The trials on the line will be completed on September 20th and the final mandatory inspection of this much-awaited project will take place on September 26. The electrification of this rail link will not only reduce pollution in the area but also save 60 per cent fuel consumption. The UT government, Indian Railways, and Indian Railway Construction Limited have been working on the project since August 2019.
Indian Railways with the support of the administration have pushed for the timely completion of all projects despite the pandemic-related hurdles along the way.
One amazing feat worth a million mentions is the Chenab Bridge, the highest arch railway bridge in the world. Built at the cost of Rs 1,250 crore, the architectural marvel stands 35 meters higher than the Eiffel Tower! The pictures shared by the Railway Ministry have been trending on Twitter since the last week. In the pleasant season of Monsoon, the bridge almost looks like something out of a fairytale drowned in a sea of clouds. The golden hour pictures of the bridge look so breathtaking, that Twitterati checked with the Railway Ministry for pre-booking of the train ride!
While the construction of the bridge is complete, the laying of the ballastless track below will soon begin. It is expected to be open to the public by the end of this year or the beginning of the next. Also known as the “Golden Joint of the Deck,” the 1.315 km mega iconic structure stands over the gorge of Chenab River in the Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir at the height of 359 meters above the river bed.
Prefabricated portions of the 785 meters deck were launched from both ends and then joined. The two sections of the bridge were put in place by the HSFG (High Strength Friction Grip) bolts. The bridge can combat winds at the speed of 260 kmph. For the engineers it was a journey full of obstacles while fighting against the complex geography and weather adversaries of the region, to say the least.
This project has witnessed many “Firsts” – for the first time in the country power operated cars were used for inspection and maintenance of bridges; a continuous health monitoring and warning system is in place; the cable crane assembly that was used for the erection of the steel pillars of the bridge is 915 meters long, one of the longest in the world; one of the pylons of cable crane (127 meters) is higher than the Qutub Minar (72 meters); it is for the first time that a bridge has been designed for blast load with the supervision of DRDO; a phased Array Ultrasonic Testing machine is in use for the inspection of welds; and a NABL accredited lab is testing the welded elements in the Indian Railways and the bridge for the endurance of earthquake forces of zone V.
The world’s most advanced and modern technologies are being used for the planning and construction of this project. In many instances, new technologies were developed along the way and existing methods were iterated by experts from India and abroad for the execution of the project.