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Coming up: tallest bridge on Chenab

- ARCH-SHAPED link to rise TO 359m
An artist’s impression of the rail bridge across the Chenab which is part of the Jammu-Baramulla rail link

Srinagar, July 13: The completion of the rail link to the Vaishno Devi shrine base camp in Katra has shifted focus to a mighty rail bridge coming up across Jammu’s Chenab river that may well be the world’s highest.

Railway officials said the bridge, part of the 326km Jammu-Baramulla rail link that will connect Jammu and Kashmir to the rest of the country, would take over two years to complete.

Last week, the railways completed the 25km Udhampur-Katra stretch of the Jammu-Udhampur-Katra-Banihal-Srinagar-Baramulla link. Jammu and Udhampur are already connected by rail. Extension of the link to Katra has been a long-standing demand of pilgrims, who could so far take a train till Jammu from where they had to travel to Katra by road.

The 110km Katra-Banihal stretch of the project is incomplete and is expected to be commissioned by 2017. The bridge on the Chenab is part of this leg.

The officials said the bridge would rise as high as 359 metres from the riverbed, surpassing the 275m-high rail bridge over the Beipanjiang river in China’s Guizhou province. It is being built at an estimated cost of Rs 512 crore.

Work on the bridge started around a decade ago but was put on hold in 2008 because of fears over its stability. The work resumed in 2010 after the concerns were addressed by Indian Railway with the help of experts from different countries.

The officials said the bridge would comprise an “arch-shaped” steel structure spanning 467m from one side of the river to the other. The remainder of the bridge across two mountains will span 1.3km.

“It will have a total steel fabrication (usage) of 25000 metric tonnes,” a Northern Railway spokesperson said.

The inclement weather in the area — wind speeds go up to as high as 220kmph — as well as its extreme proneness to earthquakes have been a big challenge for the railways.

“A special design has been made to meet the challenge. The bridge is being built in Seismic Zone V. The slope along the Katra side bank is 35-50 degrees while the Qazigund (Banihal) side bank is vertical to sub vertical,” he said.

Officials said apart from foreign experts, others from reputed Indian organisations would help with the bridge. Some of these are the Research Design Standards Organisation of Indian Railway, Konkan Railway Corporation, National Institute of Rock Mechanics Kolar, IIT Roorkee and IISc Bangalore.

Before the actual work on the bridge starts, two pylons about 130m and 100m high would have to be rigged up on either side of the river, officials said. They would then be connected with ropes, so an auxiliary crane can transport equipment and construction material.