Laying of a 90-km rail line between Katra and Laole in J&K is a gargantuan task and Konkan Railway Corporation will have to finish it.

Amit Mitra

IT IS an uphill task, but Konkan Railway Corporation Ltd (KRCL) is prepared to handle it.

Indeed, laying of a 90-km rail line through mountainous terrain between Katra and Laole in Jammu and Kashmir is a gargantuan task and KRCL will have to draw on its experience to finish it.

Scheduled to be completed by 2007, the rail line will provide year-long connectivity to the Kashmir Valley with the rest of the country.

"This is a difficult terrain and is largely hilly steep slopes, intersected by rivers. The challenges are aplenty, reminding us of the challenges we faced during the construction of the KR line," a KRCL official said.

Founded in 1990, KRCL laid the 760-km rail line from Roha, near Mumbai, to Thokur, near Mangalore, through difficult terrain in the west coast of India. In Kashmir, KRCL launched the laying work last year, putting its men and machinery in place along the Katra-Laole stretch.

"Putting men and material in place in itself has been an arduous task, for there are several places which have not been set foot on. In fact, so difficult is the terrain that one can reach some sites along the route only on foot or on mules. To start work on the rail line, we have to first construct about 300 km of approach roads," the official pointed out.

The Rs 4,735-crore rail line project involves an earthwork of 256 lakh cu.m., construction of 60 tunnels, 72 major bridges, two special bridges and eight stations. The alignment between Katra to Quazigund and Quazigund to Laole is via valleys and mountains. "In fact, the 90-km stretch will finally have only bridges, tunnels and cuttings, with very short runs on open land. Of the 90 kms, about 60 km will be through tunnels, 20 km on bridges and the balance would cover stations," the official said.

A project of this magnitude is fraught with difficulties. The major challenge is in laying the line on soft soil. Happily, KRCL can draw upon its experience in laying the KR line. Another challenge will be construction of the bridges, which will be the tallest railway steel arch bridges in the world. Here, KRCL will have to surpass its own record of constructing the tallest viaduct of 64 metres at Panvalnadi, near Ratnagiri. "The bridges over the Chenab and Anji Khad rivers will be the novel features of the project. The cost of construction of these two bridges alone will be about Rs. 719 crore," according to the official.

While the Chenab bridge will be at a height of 359 metres, that over the Anji Khad will be at 189 metres both are scheduled to be completed within 30 months.

KRCL also expects technical difficulties in the construction of structures in active thrust zone, design for the requirements of highest earthwork zone of India (Zone V) and launching of girders in the deep valley, where wind speeds can reach 220 km per hour.

The challenges posed by the extreme climatic conditions are also daunting. "In January, we got a taste of the problems when quakes, accompanied by sudden avalanches, made it difficult to take up construction activities," the official said.

KRCL has initiated measures to ensure active involvement of local engineers and contractors 16 consulting engineering companies have been formed with 144 local graduate engineers, who were trained on the KR line and subsequently deployed for the J&K railway line project.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated August 8, 2005)
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