India’s first cable-stayed railway bridge, which has faced several missed deadlines in the past, including those in 2017 and 2022, is finally nearing completion at a cost of ₹400 crores.
A senior official working on-site has confirmed that the superstructure deck of the bridge will be launched by the first week of May, followed by essential ancillary works such as cabling, deck casting, and linking of railway tracks.
The bridge is perched over the Anji Khad river, which swells during the monsoon season and is supported by a single pylon towering at 1,086 feet from the river bed, equivalent to a 77-storey building.
The cable-stayed railway bridge has the capability to withstand wind speeds of up to 216 km per hour. However, whenever the windspeed goes beyond 45 kmph, all construction activities, including casting work, must be halted due to the risk of machinery, such as tower cranes, and swaying. The official also mentioned that a running train, limited to a speed of 30 kmph, can withstand wind speeds of up to 90 kmph.
Upon completion, the bridge will provide a single broad-gauge track for trains connecting Jammu to Baramulla via Srinagar, spanning a 326 km railway line. The Northern Railways initiated the project, which is currently being executed by Hindustan Construction Company and Konkan Railway Corporation Ltd. (KRCL). A senior KRCL official mentioned that the company has prior experience in executing the largest railway project of the century in Asia, which involved building a 756-km railway line, cutting through ghat sections, and constructing 96 tunnels.
Despite the experience, engineers at the bridge site have stated that the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla rail link project, valued at over ₹37,000 crore, is more challenging due to the persistent climatic issues and the treacherous nature of the Himalayan terrain. Officials reported a worker’s death two months ago, who sustained multiple injuries during a slope stability survey on the site.
The railway project to connect Jammu to Baramulla via Srinagar spans 326 km, of which 215 km has been completed, including the Jammu-Udhampur-Katra stretch (79 km) and the Banihal-Qazigund-Baramulla stretch (136 km). Work is currently underway on the Katra-Banihal section, which is the most challenging part of the project, with the construction of 27 tunnels and 37 bridges in a 7 km section, accounting for almost 87% of the work, according to an official.
The idea for the project was first conceived in 2002 during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s tenure as Prime Minister and was declared a “national project”. However, the survey of the stretch revealed that there were no approach roads to begin the construction of the railway tunnel, and around 205 km of approach roads was constructed between 2008 and 2016, according to an official.
The construction was delayed by a maze of litigation regarding the alignment of the proposed bridge. In 2016, the work finally picked up pace after all court cases were resolved. The nearest border area is Suchetgarh, approximately 92 km from the bridge construction site, making it a politically sensitive project. However, construction work was delayed for a number of reasons, including the Pulwama attack and the onset of COVID-19, according to officials.