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Chenab Bridge is an under-construction rail bridge, located between Bakkal and Kauri in the Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), India. The 1,315m-long bridge is being built at a height of 359m. Once completed, it will be the tallest rail bridge in the world.
The INR5.12bn ($92m) bridge is a part of Jammu-Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Line (JUSBRL) project being undertaken by the Ministry of Indian Railways. The bridge will include a 14m-wide dual carriageway and a 1.2m-wide central verge.
The project is expected to be finished by March 2016 and will have a lifespan of 120 years. It will contribute to the economic development of the state and help in providing better transportation accessibility within the state and the country.
Of the many large barriers the railway crosses, the most daunting is the wide gorge of the Chenab River. With its headwaters high up in the Himalayan mountain range, the river carved a deep gash that left its elevation more than a 1,000 feet (305 mtrs) below the level of the rail line. The engineers decided the only bridge type suitable for the location would be a massive steel arch — the highest ever built for a railway at 1,056 feet (322 meters) from deck to water. Only an arch is capable of handling the weight of a 300 ton locomotive along with a thousand tons of passenger cars. With a length of 1,532 feet (467 meters), the main span will rank among the world’s 10 longest arches. Although its height will also surpass all of China’s current arch bridges, there are several Chinese railway lines planned that will contain railway bridges that will surpass Chenab in height.
Construction will be done by building the arch outward from both sides of the canyon using the stayed cantilever method. This technique was also used for the similar design of the New River Gorge bridge in West Virginia, U.S.A. The uneven sides of the gorge will result in one side of the arch terminating into the foundation 40 feet (12 meters) higher than the other side.
In September of 2008 it was announced that the Chenab Railway Bridge was canceled despite the completion of the approach viaducts in 2007. Difficult geological conditions on the steep slopes supporting the arch foundations were sited as the reason as well as the development of a lower, more direct route through tunnels. In 2013 this decision was reversed and the original route is back on track with the bridge being constructed as originally planned.
Whenever the Chenab Railway Bridge is finally completed, it will be more than just another bridge but a prestigious symbol of how far India and its railway engineers have come since the country’s first mile of railway track became operational more than 150 years ago.
Chenab and Anjikhad bridges are located less than 10 miles (16 kms) north of the busy tourist town of Katra. Despite its small population, Katra is loaded with hotels and restaurants due to its proximity to the Vaishno Devi, the second most visited religious shrine in all of India after the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple. Located a mile above sea level, the large complex of white buildings steps down the side of the holy mountain of Vaishno Devi. The Hindu shrine is located about 8 miles (13 kms) from Katra and is visited by millions of people a year. There is an airport in the much larger city of Jammu, located 30 miles (48 kms) south of the Chenab bridge.