Sikkim rail builders work on quake guards

Same technology has been used in Jammu & Kashmir where a similar fault line runs

By Vivek Chhetri in Kalimpong
  • Published 12.12.18, 1:08 AM
  • Updated 12.12.18, 2:51 AM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
Workers on the site of a tunnel being built along the rail route. Telegraph picture

Three firms from the US, Switzerland and Austria working on the Sevok-Rangpo rail link have said that the route is being built taking into account seismic issues of the region that has two fault lines passing through it.

Designers from Switzerland’s AMBERG Engineering and the US-based AECOM were on Tuesday present at the International Mountain Day celebrations organised by the Darjeeling Himalayan Initiative at Town Hall in Kalimpong.

The third designing firm, D2 Consults PEMS, is from Austria. The three firms have experience in building similar routes across the world.

B.C. Mandal, geologist, AMBERG said: “We have conducted thorough studies of the region for three years and have run the data in software. Depending on our studies, we have changed the alignment of the tracks three times.”

Almost 86 per cent of the 44.98km link will run through 14 tunnels. Each will be 8 meters in diameter.

“We have come across good rocks in the region, these includes phyhllite quartzite and gneiss quartzite. The presence of bad rocks like phyllite, silt stone and sandstone is minimum,” said Ender Gozden, of AECOM.

While AMBERG is designing and supervising six tunnels, the other two firms are working on four tunnels each.

“In many existing publications, it has been mentioned that two fault lines MBT and MCT are located in the area. These have been mapped and the exact location identified. We are using Especial Tunnel Support System (ETSS) and extra precautions are being undertaking by grouting super plasticiser admixture. We are also using crown umbrella protection,” said Mandal.

Allaying concerns, the designers said that the same technology had been used in Jammu and Kashmir where a similar fault line runs.

A.P. Singh, general manager, Ircon International Ltd — a Government of India PSU — which has engaged the three international firms said: “Tunneling is a very precise work. We factor in all situations and prepare for an impact which is double than expected.”

“During the last earthquake, the Sikkim earthquake, did you hear of any tunnel-related incident?” he asked.

Work has started in tunnel 5 and tunnel 14 with 155 and 160 meters, having being completed respectively.

In 2009, the project cost was estimated at Rs 1,339.48 crore but according to Singh, the figure has now increased to Rs 4,087 crore. “If everything goes according to plan, we expect the project to be completed by June 2021,” said Singh.

Electrification

Electrification of tracks till Guwahati in two years, said Sanjiv Roy, the general manager of Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR).

Roy, who was at the New Jalpaiguri Railway Institute to attend a meeting convened by a union of railway employees, said: “The work for electrification of railway tracks is in progress. We hope to finish the work till Guwahati station by 2020.”

The senior railway official also spoke about the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) sand said they are drawing up plans to take protective measures beside the Toy Train tracks in some of the landslide-prone stretches of the hills.

“We are putting all possible efforts to conserve the DHR that is a world heritage site. Protective measures would be taken to ensure that the tracks do not get damaged in such zones. Also, we are in the process of repairing some more old steam locos

which can then be pressed into service. Our plan is to introduce more Joy Rides in the hills by using these locos,” added Roy.

C.P. Gupta, the divisional railway manager of NFR’s Katihar division who was present at the event, said evening rides on the Toy Train would be introduced shortly. “The proposed evening ride will be a fun ride and a coach and a separate dining car. It will run between New Jalpaiguri and Rongtong,” said Gupta.

Additional reporting from Bireswar Banerjee in Siliguri