How India’s Longest Rail-road Bridge Will Help The Army
The Bogibeel bridge is set to make troop movement easier in the north-east region.
Much has changed for soldiers of the Indian Army deployed around Taksing, Mechuka, and Tuting — areas in Arunachal Pradesh that have witnessed frequent incursions by China’s People’s Liberation Army in recent years — after Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the country’s longest rail-cum-road bridge in Assam today (25 December).
The 4.9 km-long structure will bridge the mighty Brahmaputra River, which gets as wide as 8 km at some points along its 800 km stretch in Assam.
The bridge, promised under the Assam Accord of 1985, was sanctioned in 1997 by the then prime minister of India, H D Deve Gowda, who laid the foundation stone for the project that same year. But work on it did not begin until 2002, when the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, led by late Atal Bihari Vajpayee, cleared historical bottlenecks and flagged off the project.
Nearly 12 years later, when the NDA stormed to power again, only 15 of the 42 piers (structures built in water bodies to support the main span of a bridge) were under construction and work on the rest was yet to pick up. Fast forward four and a half years and the bridge has been opened for traffic.
Although delayed, the bridge is a feat of engineering. It is a two-deck structure consisting of a three-lane road on the upper plank and two railway lines on the lower, supported by 39 girders (main horizontal support) of 125 m and two girders of 33 m span. It is India’s only fully welded bridge, for which European codes and welding standards were adhered to in a first for the country.
Consequently, the bridge can withstand up to 60 tonnes of weight. This makes it fit for the movement of heavy equipment, including the BMP-II armoured vehicles and Main Battle Tanks of Russian origin – the T-72s and T-90s.
The bridge will link two existing National Highways – NH-52 in Dhemaji on the North Bank and NH-37 on the southern bank in Dibrughar, home to the Indian Army’s Second Mountain Division. Not to forget, nine of the Army’s 12 mountain divisions are deployed in the eastern sector, including Assam. In the event of war, the Bogibeel bridge, only the fourth across the Brahmaputra River, will be critical for the movement of these Army divisions.
Before the inauguration of this bridge, the rail and road link to Arunachal was limited to three bridges in Assam – Jogighopa in Bongaigaon district, Saraighat near Guwahati, and Kolia-Bhomora between Sonitpur and Nagaon.
The Army will also benefit from the bridge during peacetime through movement of troops and supplies to far-flung and incursion-prone areas of India in Arunachal Pradesh, including the region around Taksing, Mechuka, and Tuting.
Until today, troops moving to these frontiers along the Line of Actual Control from areas along the southern bank of the Brahmaputra in upper Assam, like Dibrugarh, had to take a 600 km detour to reach the northern bank via the Kaliabhomora bridge in Sonitpur built in 1987. The opening of this bridge will make the journey from the southern to the northern bank a 40-minute ride.
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