A two-km-long railway mega bridge on river Kosi, the foundation stone of which was laid by former Prime Minister late Atal Bihari Vajpayee 17 years ago, may be inaugurated around his second death anniversary in poll-bound Bihar.
The bridge is of strategic importance for India and seeks to provide a shorter route to the Northeast.
As per instructions from the Railways top brass, zonal officials have fast-tracked the work and, sources said, efforts are being made to complete the work of the bridge in time for the Centre to make it operational by August.
The bridge’s foundation stone was laid by Vajpayee in 2003 as part of the government’s decision to provide strategic linkages to the Northeast Frontier Railway. As per plan, the operational line will improve ground accessibilities and India’s capability to move men and material through an alternate route from north India to the Northeastern states.
“This will give an alternate route all around the Nepal border. Right now, trains from the Northeast have to come down to Katihar and Malda to go anywhere in the country through what is called the ‘chicken neck’. So it will also ease congestion in the ‘chicken neck’,” said a senior railway official. The bridge will enable the opening up of the route through Darbhanga, Nirmali and finally to New Jalpaiguri from where the route to Assam starts.
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal is learnt to have asked the zonal railway to finish the job fast and officials said the bridge is more or less complete as it has been one of the priority projects of East Central Railway. Only issue is that during the monsoon, it becomes difficult to carry out this kind of work and the bridge is yet to get connected from the Nirmali side for which work is in progress, officials said.
In 2003, the bridge was sanctioned at a cost of Rs 323.41 crore. The 17 years after that have added to the cost and it is now expected to be completed at around Rs 516.02 crore, officials said.
The bridge is part of Nirmali-Saraigarh broad gauge line, which was originally sanctioned in the early 1970s to replace an old meter-gauge line constructed in 1887. At that time, Kosi was not flowing between these two stations and a small bridge was provided across the tributary river Tiljuga near Nirmali in Supaul district in north Bihar. Due to continuous westward shifting of Kosi, this rail link was damaged by flood and the Indo-Nepal earthquake in 1934. “Owing to the meandering nature of river Kosi, no attempt was thereafter made to restore this link for a long period,” a senior official of East Central Railway told The Indian Express.
Officials said work was on in full swing before the lockdown came into force. ‘Motor-trolley inspection’ has already been done by the Chief Administrative Officer of Construction, North, of East Central Railway on January 10.
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