Work on the Chenab Railway Bridge – deemed the highest in the world – hit a new milestone early this week with the completion of the ‘Golden Joint.’ Soon, Jammu and Kashmir will be linked to the rest of India with a rail network for the first time since Independence. Here’s everything you need to know about this historic structure.

Towering over the pristine Chenab river in the Kouri region of the Reasi district – the world’s highest railway bridge is a sight to behold. Most recently, work on its overarch deck was completed, leaving room for engineers to begin laying tracks over the structure. Standing at a height of over 1177 feet above the river bed, the bridge features 93 deck segments and is a part of the much-anticipated 272-km-long railway line from Udhampur to Baramulla.

Chenab railway bridge will improve connectivity to and from Jammu and Kashmir

About 16 bridges are being built on the rough terrain of Jammu and Kashmir with the aim to better connect the region to the rest of India. The structure in discussion however is one of a kind. Reports suggest that over 30,350 tonnes of steel – 10,620 tonnes for the arch and 14,500 tonnes for the bridge deck – have gone into the construction process. Each of its deck segments weighs about 85 tonnes. Most recently, two ends of these were brought together at the centre to complete the superstructure’s arch.

“Both ends will finally meet to complete the bridge overarch deck and the segments will be joined with the help of High Strength Friction Grip (HSFG) bolts to mark the critical ‘golden joint’ on the iconic structure. This will complete the Chenab River bridge,” Giridhar Rajagopalan, Deputy Managing Director of Afcons Infrastructure Ltd was quoted as saying by Business Standard. He deemed this an extraordinary achievement, adding that it would herald a new chapter in the valley. The term ‘Golden Joint’ was coined by civil engineers.

He further noted all the details that underline the construction process. Reportedly, given the extreme weather conditions and height, an automatic signalling system was installed on both sides of the bridge to stop trains from crossing if the wind speeds get close to 90 kmph. In addition to this a National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) laboratory was set up at the site to monitor quality, carry out sample tests, and inspect welds.

Surender Mahi, chief administrative officer of the USBRL Konkan Railways was quoted in a report by Hindustan Times as saying, “It was a very big project for all of us. To reach here we had to construct 26 km of approach roads having bridges and tunnels”. This milestone was achieved in collaboration with experts from IIT-Roorkee, IIT-Delhi, Indian Institute of Sciences, Bangalore, DRDO, national remote sensing agency, GSI and other agencies. Once the deck is completed, trolleys will be used for trial runs. The cost of the project is believed to be about INR 1,450 crore.

Mahi further added, “In the 90 days pending works of the bridge, including rail tracks, shall be completed and by next two years, i.e, by December 2024, the train will pass over this bridge on way to Srinagar. The work on rail tracks beyond this bridge (Bakkal) towards Srinagar is already on.”