Engineering marvel is going full steam

Govind Sharma
In view of its importance in providing seamless and hassle-free connectivity to beautiful valley of Kashmir, the Udhampur-Srinagar- Baramulla Rail Link (USBRL) project was declared as ‘National Project’ in 2002 by the Vajpayee led NDA Government. It is the most challenging project being undertaken post-independence. It was highly essential to provide an alternative and a reliable transportation system to Jammu and Kashmir to join Kashmir Valley to the Indian Railways network.
This rail link under this project will be 1676 mm Broad gauge. The construction is being done for a single line. The steepest gradient is 1:80 (i.e. to gain 1 m vertical elevation, train has to travel on track for at least 80 m. The design speed of the train will be 100 kilometre per hour (kmph).
Execution Agencies
This project is technically very challenging on account of difficult geology, steep terrain, inaccessibility, large number of tunnels and mega bridges. On account of these difficulties, three agencies-Northern Railway, Konkan Railway and IRCON have been brought together for completion of this project.
USBRL Project can be divided into parts:
(i)Section Commissioned: Banihal to Baramulla (136 km) and Udhampur to Katra (25 km).
(ii)Section under construction: Katra in Reasi to Dharam in Banihal (111 km).
Konkan Railway, which is a Central Public Sector Enterprise, under Ministry of Railways, has been entrusted the construction of part of the USBRL project from Katra to Dharam (km 30.00 to km 73.785 and km 91 to km 100.868). It has the experience of construction of 740 km of Railway route length of Konkan Railway between Roha (near Mumbai) to Thokur (near Mangalore).
Katra-Dharam Section
It comprises of 17 tunnels with aggregating length of 46.1 km and 23 bridges (together constitute 4.6 km of total route). The longest tunnel is 9.368 km. Four tunnels are being provided with a separate access and rescue tunnel with smaller size of cross- section parallel to main tunnel. All the tunnels are being constructed using the state of art technology of New Austrian Tunneling method (NATM) and conventional method.
So far 13 tunnels have been made through out of 17 tunnels pertaining to KRCL section. Cumulative tunneling of 37.1 km has been completed out of 46.1 km while work is in progress in balance four tunnels.
The alignment of the project passes through three major geological thrust zones namely Reasi, Muree and Pir Panjal thrust. The geological strata vary from loose conglomerate, clay, silt stones, crushed and faulted sand stones and dolomites. Geology changes very frequently here due to natural challenges which include major earthquakes zones, extreme temperatures and inhospitable terrain making it very difficult to access the complete geology in advance.
Considering the varying geological conditions, adjustments in design have to be made as the work progresses. Construction of longer tunnels with wider cross section for station yards is a difficult task for which proper methodologies are being roped in with requisite machinery by the KRCL. The construction of 160 km of roads through this inaccessible terrain to take up the works was the most challenging job.
Socio-Economic impact of the Project
It will boost tourism as tourist will be able to travel from all over the country to visit various parts of J&K specially the Valley. The completion of this project will provide an all-weather and reliable connectivity to J&K with rest of the country by the railway network. It will also provide connectivity by rail to far flung areas of J&K which will result in overall economic development of J&K.
Besides, more than 160 kms of approach roads have been completed and a road bridge over River Chamab near Dhamkund on Ramban-Gool Highway has been constructed which connects surrounding villages of Reasi and are facilitating development works in these areas by other departments of the Government. Moreover, the all weather rail connectivity to Valley will be a strategic asset for the Indian armed forces.
Special Bridge on Chenab River
An arch bridge across River Chenab is being built at a height of 359 metre from the bed level in Reasi and joins Kouri and Bakkal ends. Once completed, this bridge will be the world’s highest rail bridge surpassing the record of France where the world’s tallest rail bridge is located over Tarn River. This Chenab Bridge will be taller than even Eiffel Tower (which is 324 m) and Qutab Minar (72 m).
The overall length of the bridge is 1315 m having 17 spans, in which one span of main arch portion across Chenab River is of 467 m length. The work on viaduct portion of the bridge at Kouri end is near completion. The viaduct portion comprises of straight and curved portion. The curved portion of the viaduct has been launched by end launching using launching nose. This is the first time in India that this technique has been successfully carried out. Fabrication of the super structure of this viaduct was carried out by installing and commissioning of an extremely efficient and technically superior workshop at the site.
The erection of Arch of the Bridge from both ends with the help of cable crane is under process. It consists of 2 arches (one upstream and other downstream) joined by wind bracings together parabolic in shape having crown at 359 m height from river bed making it world’s highest railway bridge. Till date erection of 5462 MT out of 10000 MT has been completed. State of the art technology is being used to control the Geometry of the Arch.
Unique features of Chenab Bridge
*It will be the highest railway bridge in the world at 359 m.
*Cable crane assembly including pylons at span of 915 m is the longest in the world. Pylon at a height of 127 m is higher than Qutub Minar of 72 m.
*It can withstand high intensity blasts of up to 40 kg of TNT and an earthquake of magnitude 8 on Richter Scale. In case of removal of one pier/trestle due to blast, the bridge shall not collapse and in that condition also, a train can run over the bridge at 30 kilometre per hour speed.
* The bridge can also withstand wind speeds of up to 260 km per hour.
*For the first time in country, launching of plate girder by pushing from one end of curve of 2.74 degrees has been successfully completed.
*First time in Indian Railways, use of Phased Array Ultrasonic Testing machine for inspection of welds in bridges in India.
*Chenab site lab has been accredited by NABL (National Accreditation Board for Laboratories) for testing of welded elements for first time in Indian Railways.
*Highest structural steel pier at 130.855 m at S-40 foundation, which is higher than Qutub Minar of 72 m.
Anji Bridge
The Anji Khad bridge is a cable-stayed bridge proposed to connect Katra and Reasi section of USBRL Project. This is the first cable stayed bridge to be constructed in Indian Railways. The Anji bridge mainly includes the main bridge having length of 473.25 m, the Ancillary Viaduct having length of 120 m and the Central embankment (between main bridge and Ancillary Viaduct) having length of 64.25 m.
The specific feature of the bridge is its main span having length of 290 m and height (193 m) above top Well Cap. The single Pylon will be 193 m high above Well Cap and 331 m high above river bed. The bridge will be supported by total 96 cables and one pylon of 193 m height placed on Reasi side. The bridge is designed by M/s Italfer SPA, an Italian consultant.
The Anji bridge will have integrated monitoring system by means of numerous sensors installed at specified locations for recording on real time basis the various critical parameters to monitor the structural health of the bridge. On completion, the Anji bridge assess the great potential of the Cable Stayed bridges in Railways.
The proposed stations on this section of project are Reasi Road, Salal A, Salal B (Halt Station), Dugga, Basindhadar and Sangaldhan (Ramban).
The 1.315-km-long bridge awarded in 2004 has missed many deadlines, the first in February 2007 due to non-consensus on alignment, delay in finalization of designs and litigations. The project is set to complete by December 2021, which has been fixed the new deadline by Union Railway Minister, Piyush Goyal.