The track laying work commenced on the Chenab railway bridge, located 359 metres above the riverbed, in Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir, officials said.
The 1.3-kilometre-long bridge, which is 35 metres higher than the iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris, forms a crucial link in the 111-km stretch from Katra to Banihal, which is part of the Rs 21,653 crore Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Railway Link (USBRL) project.
“Another milestone in the USBRL Project! Track laying work begins on Chenab Bridge. Once completed, this bridge will open up new possibilities for the remote regions of Jammu and Kashmir,” the Ministry of Railways tweeted.
The base of the steel and concrete arch bridge between Bakkal and Kauri, 42 kms from Reasi town, was completed in November 2017, allowing for the start of the construction of the main arch which was done in April 2021.
Another milestone on the bridge was achieved in August last year when the overarch deck of the bridge was completed with a ‘Golden Joint’, paving way for the laying of the track.
As per the officials, the construction work on the bridge started in 2004 but had to be suspended in 2008-09 to consider the aspect of safety of rail passengers in view of frequent high velocity winds in the area.
Once completed, the bridge will be able to withstand winds with speed up to 260 kmph and will have a lifespan of 120 years, the officials said.
Besides the highest railway bridge, the USBRL project has many firsts like the longest railway tunnel having overall length of 12.75 km, first cable-stayed bridge which when completed will be an engineering marvel of the 21st century.
Out of the total 272-km USBRL project, the 161-km was commissioned in phases, with the first phase 118-km Qazigund-Baramulla section commissioned in October 2009 followed by 18-km Banihal-Qazigund in June 2013 and 25-km Udhampur-Katra in July 2014.
The work on the project, which is the most challenging railway infrastructure project being undertaken post-independence, was started in 1997 and has missed several deadlines amid huge cost escalations.
The under-construction 111-km Katra-Banihal section has a total of 37 bridges (26 major and 11 minor), 35 tunnels with a length of 164 kms (main 27 with 97.64 km and eight escape tunnels with 66.40 km).