About 21 years after its foundation stone was laid, the Bogibeel bridge, India’s longest railroad bridge, will be thrown open to traffic by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday. The 4.94 km bridge, built at a cost of Rs 5,900 crore by the Indian Railways, will reduce travel time from Assam to Arunachal Pradesh to four hours and will also cut down train travel between Delhi to Dibrugarh by three hours.
The double-decker bridge, the fourth across the Brahmaputra, has two railway lines on the lower deck and a three-lane road on the upper, strong enough to withstand movement of heavy military tanks. The most significant beneficiary will be the Army, whose convoys will now save an estimated three to four hours in their journey from Assam to their posts ner the 4000-km long border Arunachal-China border. Till now, the Vembanad rail bridge in Kerala had the distinction of being the longest rail bridge in the country at 4.62 km.
Here are all your questions answered about the Bogibeel bridge:
When was the Bogibeel bridge commissioned? What led to the delay?
The Bogibeel bridge project was a part of the 1985 Assam Accord and was sanctioned in 1997-98. The foundation stone of the project was laid by then prime minister HD Deve Gouda on January 22, 1997, and commencement of work on the project was done by Atal Bihari Vajpayee on April 21, 2002. In fact, the inauguration of the bridge coincides with the 94th birth anniversary of Vajpayee, who passed away in August this year.
However, the project has missed several deadlines and has been a victim of political unwillingness and red tapes despite being granted a national project status in 2007. Changes to bridge design, revisions in the scope of the work and construction technology has resulted in the project’s cost escalating from the initial estimate of Rs 1,767 crore to Rs 5,800 crore — more than threefold. The challenge of building the bridge over a turbulent Brahmaputra river also added to the delay since most of the crucial work of the bridge could only happen during the November to March period.
Why is the bridge being called an engineering marvel?
The Bogibeel Bridge, which will have a serviceable period of around 120 years, is India’s only fully welded bridge for which European welding standards were adhered to for the first time in the country. The bridge has 39 girders of 125 meter and 2 girders of 33-meter span. The girders have steel floor system for railway tracks and concrete for the road. This type of structure was constructed for the first time on Indian Railways.
One of the biggest challenges was the transportation of concrete across river channels of 600 meter to 900-meter width. To overcome this, concrete was pumped through pipeline laid over buoys. State of the art machinery and welding equipment were used for the execution of welding work.
Take a look at the stunning visuals of how the iconic Bogibeel Bridge, India’s longest rail-cum-road bridge, was built by the best of our engineering minds pic.twitter.com/3xrPltY6Ol
How will the Bogibeel bridge benefit civilians and the Army?
The bridge will act as a lifeline to the Northeast region, reducing the distance by 165 km from the north and saving fuel worth Rs 10 lakh per day in the region. Besides cutting down train travel time between Tinsukia in Assam to Naharlagun town of Arunachal Pradesh by more than 10 hours, the Bogibeel bridge will connect the south bank of the Brahmaputra river in Assam’s Dibrugarh district with Silapathar in Dhemaji district, bordering Arunachal Pradesh.
The bridge will also link two existing National Highways – NH-37 on the South Bank and NH-52 on the North Bank. Moreover, the remote districts of Anjaw, Changlang, Lohit, Lower Dibang Valley, Dibang Valley and Tirap of Arunachal Pradesh will also benefit.
The most significant beneficiary will be the Army and the bridge will help in quicker supply of logistical support from Assam to their posts at Kibithoo, Wallong, and Chaglagam on the Arunachal-China border.
What are the controversies Bogibeel project has run into?
A row over the naming of the bridge had erupted, with different indigenous groups demanding different names to be assigned to the project. A number of people belonging to the Chutia community had held a massive agitation in Golaghat district, demanding that the bridge is renamed after Chutia dynasty queen Sati Sadhini. The protesters threatened that 100 youths of the community would jump off the bridge into the Brahmaputra on the day of its inauguration if their demand was not accepted
Several Ahom organisations had also blocked NH 37 near Siu-ka-Pha Bhavan in Dibrugarh, demanding the naming of Bogibeel bridge after Ahom dynasty founder Chaolung Siu-ka-Pha. ULFA chief Paresh Barua had asserted that the bridge should be named after Bishnu Prasad Rabha and Jyoti Prasad Agarwala, two eminent cultural icons from Assam.
A section of BJP leaders had demanded a few months ago that the bridge be named Atal Setu after former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee. BJP MLA from Dibrugarh Prasanta Phukan had proposed that the bridge be named after Vajpayee since he inaugurated its construction. The Deuri community too had sought the bridge name after their leader Bhimbor Deuri.