After almost a decade of flip-flops, Railways has finally decided to build what will be India’s first mega cable-stayed railway bridge at Anji Khad on the Kashmir link project between Katra and Banihal. The Railways will thus abandon the existing contentious plan of building a mega arch bridge at Anji Khad, which had been stuck for years.
The cable-stayed bridge on Anji gorge, also known as Anji Khad, will be the Railways’ second attempt to link the two crucial tunnels on either side — Katra and Reasi — as the plan for the mega arch bridge was dropped following concerns that the location was not suitable on account of geological stability.
Money was spent on the project before the Railways short-closed the contract in 2008. Now, the Railways says the new bridge will utilise some of the major assets already created. In a cable-stayed bridge, the weight of the deck is supported by cables running directly to one or more towers. Railways has built such bridges before, but only as road overbridges.
The Anji Khad bridge will be built upstream of the Chenab at an estimated cost of Rs 458 crore. The structure will be 196 metres high, with a span of around 290 metres. It has been designed by a foreign engineering firm that had presented to the Railways a number of options.
The cable-stayed bridge design was chosen, officials said, because it was the most suitable from the engineering point of view. Officials estimate that construction will take around three years to complete. Two tunnels — T-2 on the Katra side, which is around 5.6 km long, and T-3 on the Reasi side, around 2 km long — will be linked by the bridge.
“The detailed design is being worked out,” said A K Sachan, head of construction of the Northern Railways project.
The Anji project suffered myriad ups and downs over the years. Work was suspended on account of uncertainty over stabilisation of the foundation in July 2008. The contractor had claimed Rs 111 crore from Railways for short-closure of contract. In 2012, Railways abandoned the plan and decided to move to a different location and build a smaller and simpler bridge.
The then Member (Engineering) A P Mishra had ordered a study for a new location, which never materialised. “We had decided that by changing the location, the cost of the bridge would come down drastically and it would be easier to build. But that plan never took off,” Mishra told The Indian Express.
Incidentally, a committee headed by M Ravindra, former chairman of the Railway Board, in 2008-09 had recommended that the present location of the Anji bridge was not suitable for a mega arch bridge. But again in 2015, Railways submitted before the Sreedharan Committee — which was looking at whether the alignment of the project needed revision — that the present location and plan for the arch bridge on Anji would stay.