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The Central government and Indian Railways will soon open the Delhi to Kashmir rail route for public travel since the project is nearing completion and the railway bridge over the Chenab River in the district of Reasi on the Baramulla railway line is also almost finished.

There is a 12.6 km long T-49B tunnel being built on the 111 km long railway track that connects Katra to Banihal. The majority of this track has already been finished. There will be a total of 37 bridges built along the Banihal route, including 35 tunnels in Srinagar and 26 major and 11 small bridges.

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The 93 km of tunnels on the Jammu railway line, to be finished in 2023, cross the Himalayas. 93 km of the 110 km of the railway from Udhampur to Banihal are tunnels, and lighting systems will be installed in these tunnels to regulate train traffic. The stations Reasi, Salal A, Salal B, Daga, Bhasin Didhar, Singaldan, and Sambar will be erected next to this network of tunnels.

The challenging kilometre stretch that crosses the Himalayan mountain range on the 111 km railway line from Katra to Banihal is now under construction. This stretch will have 97 kilometres of tunnels. Trains run on three portions of the rail line that are each 25 kilometres long—from Udhampur to Katra, 18 kilometres from Banihal to Qazigund, and 118 kilometres from Qazigund to Baramulla.

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Additionally, the Baramulla railway line's district Reasi has the largest railway bridge in the world under construction across the Chenab river. The arch above the deck of the bridge will be finished this month after the steel arch is. The completion will open a new chapter in Jammu and Kashmir's history.

Golden joints will be used to finish the overarch deck later this month. In the Reasi district, this bridge is situated close to Kavari village on the upper bank of Salal Bandh.

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The Northern Railway is building the bridge, which is the tallest railway bridge in the world, as part of the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link Project for an estimated cost of 28,000 crore. The Eiffel Tower in Paris, France will be 35 metres lower than this railroad bridge.

This railroad bridge, known as "Chenab Bridge", will span the Chenab River at a height of 1315 metres, 359 metres above sea level. With a height of 275 metres above sea level, the tallest railway bridge at the time was situated on the Beipanjiang River in Guizhou Province, China. The 111 km long Katra-Banihal railway line, for which enormous Himalayan Hills are being mined, will now be completed, which is a significant accomplishment.

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The installation of the arch before the construction of the deck was one of the biggest civil engineering challenges in the recent history of India, with a 5.6-meter span at the top of the bridge being connected at the centre on both sides. Out of the 111 km. There is 97 km of tunnelling which is more than 85%. Tunnelling on this scale has not been done in any other part of the country. About 86 km of tunnelling work has been completed so far. Built on Darya Chenab, the arch of this bridge is capable of withstanding winds of 266 kilometres per hour.

The length of the bridge is 1315 metres. The number of pillars is 17. 28,660 metric tons of steel were used in its construction, at an estimated cost of 1,486 crore. The weight of the installed arch is 10,619 metric tons. The steel used in the structure is suitable for temperatures ranging from minus 10 degrees Celsius to minus 40 degrees Celsius. The bridge will have a minimum lifespan of 120 years and will be built for trains at a speed of 100 km. This bridge has a 266 km/h wind resistance rating, is blast load resistant, and is earthquake-resistant to a very high degree.

The bridge has 93 deck segments, each weighing about 85T, launched simultaneously on reinforced steel arches from both ends, and work is underway on five. The two ends will eventually be joined with 'High Strength Friction Grip' (HSFG) bolts to complete the upper deck of the bridge. The bridge has been constructed by Afcons, a Mumbai-based company.

Giridhar Rajagopalan, Deputy Managing Director, Afcons Infrastructure Pvt Ltd said, "The completion of the 359-metre high arch deck above Chenab river will be an extraordinary achievement. I pay tribute to every engineer and worker who has contributed to this unprecedented engineering achievement. This golden joint will be written in golden letters in the history of Indian Railways. All the structural engineering work has been done by Indian engineers making the Chenab Railway Bridge a symbol of 'self-sufficient India'".

Appreciating the role of Northern Railway and Konkan Railway Corporation in finalising the design of the Chenab Bridge, Giridhar Rajagopalan further said, "We were assisted in technical issues, approval of drawings, etc. by Northern Railway and Konkan Railway Corporation (KRCL) which created local employment." KRCL constructed roads to reach the project site till the construction of this bridge. This provided connectivity to remote areas of the region.

According to him, the Northern Railway allowed them to use a Phased Array Ultrasonic Testing Machine for inspection of welds, a first in India. A fully equipped NABL laboratory was set up for the first time in India to ensure that quality was monitored at every stage of the project, even over time. Before starting the actual work, Afcons engineers with the help of Konkan Railway Corporation carried out a mock-up of all the major components of the bridge, which gave them confidence. Due to this, the safety of the staff and workers was ensured and it was also possible to ensure the quality of work.

It should be noted that a train ran for the first time in Kashmir in 2008 after one and a half hundred years of the introduction of the railway system in the subcontinent, which was inaugurated by the then Prime Minister Dr Vali inaugurated this first train service on October 11 by hoisting the green flag.

The Banhal to Baramulla beach train is currently running. The 135 km railway line has 17 stations including Banhal, Halar Shahabad, Qazigund, Sidhura, Anantnag, Bijbahara, Panzgam, Awantipora, Kakapura, Pampore, Srinagar, Budgam, Mazhama, Patan, Humire, Sopore and Baramulla. This rail project under construction at a cost of 27,949 crore covers four sections, Udhampur - Katra, Katra - Banihal, Banihal - Qazigund and Qazigund - Baramulla.

However, in the 1990s, the then Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao announced the project of laying a rail line to Kashmir, while in 2002, Atal Bihari Vajpayee termed it a 'national project'. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, where the dream of Atal Bihari Vajpayee's four-lane road 'Corridor' is put to shame. Work on the Srinagar Expressway is in progress, while the dream of direct rail travel from New Delhi to Kashmir is going to be a reality very soon 356 km from Jammu. Katra. Banihal.

(With ANI inputs)

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