"Code is red, the train will stop now," said Amit Singh, the project engineer loudly at the control room with the web relay showing wind speed touching 30 kmph per hour.
"Yes, the signal is red," confirmed Shami Amir, the senior project engineer, amid the presence of 15 railway personnel, who had assembled at the state-of-the-art Chenab Bridge control room to witness the effectiveness of the sensors being installed.
The sensors, on the highest rail bridge in the country, are being installed as part of the smart asset management system to monitor structural health of the bridge.
Designed to withstand winds at speeds up to 260 kmph and with a lifespan of 120 years, the bridge over the Chenab river is a significant achievement in Indian civil engineering which has defied geological, meteorological and topographical challenges.
Though the train can move against 72 kmph wind speed on the bridge, the maximum speed limit was reduced to 30 kmph for the instrumentation trial purpose, without the running train.
Being hilly areas, the wind velocity can vary from time to time and it is essential for the Indian Railways to keep a close watch on the wind speed.
There are a total of 120 sensors installed by Tranz Rail Solutions, as part of this structural health monitoring system of the Chenab arch bridge, round the clock. These sensors would provide vital data about the wind velocity, temperature, humidity, vibrations and other required information on a real-time basis.
The wind speed trial for the 359-m-high Chenab Bridge, the crucial bridge to connect Kashmir Valley with the rest of the country, seems to have been successful.
Besides the red signal, the system will also generate an alarm sound at the station master room, when the wind speed will be more than the prescribed limit, said Amit Singh of Tranz Rail Solutions who, along with Shami Amir and the team, is involved in installation and operation of the structural health monitoring system.
Apart from wind speed, the expert team at the control room also witnessed various other functions of the system, including wind direction, ambient air temperature and also loads at various sections of the bridge.
Tranz Rail Solutions, along with technology partner James Fisher Strainstall, handed over the system this week to the concerned authorities after the successful trial exercise at the ground level.
"It is a privilege for us to provide a state-of-the-art health monitoring system which is miles ahead of the competition for an iconic structure like Chenab Bridge," said Amit Oberoi, managing partner of Tranz Rail Solutions after the handover exercise.
Damian Griffiths, regional director of James Fisher Strainstall, said, "This structural health monitoring system designed by us shall become a vital asset in ensuring the safety of such an important railway structure in the region."
An engineering marvel, the 1,315-m-long Chenab Bridge, is a steel and concrete arch bridge between Bakkal and Kauri in Reasi district of Jammu. It is being built to sustain 260 kmph wind speed and designed to bear earthquake forces of the highest intensity.
The train operation on the bridge is being delayed further as the nearby T1 tunnel is yet to be completed. Notwithstanding the delay in train operation, the state-of-the-art control room near the bridge site is fully functional to monitor the prevailing condition of the bridge.
According to the Railways, the Katra-Banihal section of the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link project is a difficult and challenging project. Topographically, geologically and tectonically the project is full of challenges. The track laying on the bridge is also completed now.
Ahead of train operation, workers are now busy with the testing and installation of overhead equipment (OHE) at 5.7 m height over the tracks.
"We are very happy to get the opportunity to work in this important project Aman Kumar," said the supervisor of the OHE works. "The work is more or less complete and we are at the final stage."
His colleague Dilabu, an electrical fitter, said, "The present assignment gives us excitement to work at this height. The weather is very harsh here but still it gives us satisfaction to be part of the project."
Both Aman and Dilabu are from Jharkhand and have been staying at the site for the last six months.
Being near to the border region, the government has given utmost importance to the security aspects. Aiming at minimising the possible bomb blast impact on the Chenab bridge, the tallest rail bridge in the world, Indian Railways has undertaken a fool-proof arrangement.
A 780-m-long blast protection platform, a first in the rail sector in India, is being mounted on the surface of the bridge to absorb the impact of any possible explosion during the train operation.
The blast protection platform is being installed on both sides of the track on the bridge. The blast protection platform comprises 165 steel decks with some 17-m-long and rest 13.5-m-long decks.
With installation of 165 steel decks, construction of the 359-m-tall steel and concrete arch bridge between Bakkal and Kauri is complete now.
About 12 lakh cubic-m of earth was excavated for the massive structure over the Chenab river and many globally renowned tunnelling experts are involved in the ongoing tunnelling works in the section.
After a two-decade wait since its approval in 2003, the bridge faced delays due to stability concerns. However, the construction contract was awarded in 2008. Trains are expected to start operating this year, covering a length of 1.3 km.
Overcoming obstacles, track laying began in February 2023, and the rail bridge is now entering its operational phase.
India will witness another milestone, when the train will run on the bridge crossing the Chenab river, and create a record of sorts.
While around 30,350 MT of steel has been used to construct the 1,315-m-long Chenab Railway Bridge, at least 10,620 MT of steel has been consumed in the construction of the gigantic arch, while 14,504 MT of steel has gone into the construction of the bridge deck.
A symbol of Atmanirbhar Bharat, the Chenab Bridge, 35 m higher than the Eiffel Tower, is fully constructed by Indian engineers.
Considered to be a transformative project, once the trains start running on the bridge, it will expected to have a positive impact on the economy of the region and herald a new chapter in the history of Jammu and Kashmir.
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