JAMMU — The Government of India is planning to set up an international-level Railway Training Academy in Jammu to educate the technical staff and engineers of the department to develop an understanding of new mountains and Himalayan formations.
As per the news agency KNO, this was revealed by Union Minister for Railways Ashwini Vaishnaw, while addressing a press conference at the world’s highest railway bridge here, after conducting an inspection of the track and tunnels on a track-mounted vehicle on the second leg of his two-day Jammu & Kashmir visit.
“I met the Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and discussed the land for Cargo Terminals. Land for three is already identified and for the remaining one, the process is in progress,” he said, adding that Cargo Terminals will be of great help in transporting (import-export) the goods in a shorter time and at cheaper transportation cost.
The minister said that the construction work on this bridge started somewhere around 2005-06 but when Prime Minister Narendra Modi took over in 2014, he personally reviewed the project, which is very close to his heart and he desired the design of the bridge for more than 100 years.
“Taking all ifs and buts in mind, the bridge is made in such a way that it is designed for 120 years, which is a big achievement for the entire country. The nation must be proud of our engineers, who transformed the dream into a reality,” he said.
He further said that there were several engineering challenges involved in the projects but the most important was the ‘willpower’ of the leadership. “The willpower of the leadership matters a lot, especially when PM Modi took the project into his hands with timely reviews, monitoring, and discussions that made us more encouraged and determined to accomplish the target. Leadership really makes a difference,” he said.
The minister said that among others, the foundation design was also one of the major challenges in this project, secondly was the construction of tunnels in the young mountains of the Himalayas.
Earlier, there was only one reliable tunneling method known as New Austrian Tunneling Method (NATM) which was accepted worldwide, but it was not suitable for our young mountains, he said, adding, “The finest brains of our country develop indigenous Himalayan Tunnelling Method (HTM) to build tunnels in the Himalayas.”
“A team of engineers desired that the HTM papers be published in journals and the technicalities be adopted worldwide,” he said, adding that the issues of gases in the mountains at the time of tunneling were also taken under consideration to prevent fire incidents.
Stating that the duration from Jammu to Kashmir will be reduced to 3 to 4 hours after the start of the connectivity, Vaishnaw said, “Vande Metro trains from Jammu to Srinagar and vice versa will also start very soon that will actually and practically convert both the cities into one.”
“Many rail projects into the Himalayan region are under progress and few are coming up, the Minister said that four PM Gati Shakti Cargo Terminals are also coming up in the Kashmir valley (between Banihal to Baramulla) for transportation of Kashmiri items to the rest of the country,” he maintained.
“Everything would be smooth, especially game changer for apple farmers after PM’s ambitious Gati Shakti Cargo Terminals become optional, as farmers easily and affordably transport their crops in any part of the country,” he said, adding, “Similarly, many goods including cement, steel will become cheaper in J&K, once transportation fare came down.”
On challenges in the North East, he said, “With challenges viewpoint related to topography, we face some similar challenges but after the completion of this project, the challenges faced in this project and the lessons learned can be shared in the North East projects and the similar can be implemented in this region from the eastern parts of the country.”
Replying to a query with regard to Jammu-Poonch Rail Link and making Jammu Railway Station a Division, the minister said, “It is a very difficult terrain but very soon new projects will be undertaken. And, special arrangements will also be made and other technicalities will be looked into for converting Jammu into a Division.”
Vaishnaw also said that with tourism, three spots have been identified from where the bridge is visible and they will be developed as tourist destinations to tap the potential of the region. On water effects on the nearby villages with the project, he, however, said, “It is an important aspect and is taken into consideration while a team of WAPCOS (Water and Power Consultancy Services Limited) is already having a detailed scientific study.”
Claiming that the construction of the world’s highest rail bridge on river Chenab is done on a ‘fix it, forget it’ basis, the bridge stands 359 meters above the river bed level and is 35 meters higher than the Eiffel Tower in France, making it the highest in the world.
“As far as the maintenance part is concerned, this project is very very important. The tracks and tunnels are planned and designed in such a way that it requires least maintenance as possible,” the Railways Minister told reporters during a press conference after inspecting the bridge in Reasi district.
The minister said that our engineers can get training and learn more about this project so that along with getting skilled, the maintenance, model and experience of Chenab bridge’s construction can also be utilized in projects in progress or coming up in other parts of the country.
He further revealed that this (Chenab) rail bridge is designed with Richter scale 8 seismic activity. “The foundation has been designed practically which is half the size of a football field,” he said.
The minister said that 28,000 tonnes of steel is used and the welding is around 600 km. “All safety and security measures are taken into consideration. It is a very tough and strong bridge,” he said.
As part of connecting Kashmir to every part of the country, the work on one of the most strategic projects – 272-km long Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link Project (USBRL), has been expedited and is expected to be completed before the 2024 Parliament elections with an aim to dedicate the facility to the people of the nation.
Declared a “National Project” in 2002, the project involves 38 tunnels (combined length of 119 km), the longest tunnel (T-49) having a length of 12.75 km and is the country’s longest transportation tunnel.
There are 927 bridges (combined length of 13 km), which include the iconic Chenab Bridge (overall length of 1315 m, arch span of 467 m and height of 359 m above river bed) which will be the highest railway bridge in the world. Indian Railway’s first cable-stayed bridge is also being constructed on Anji Khad.