A monumental project is underway in the majestic Himalayas, where the sacred rivers Bhagirathi and Alaknanda converge to form the Ganga. The Chardham railway project, led by Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL), is carving a path through the challenging terrain of Rudraprayag and Karnaprayag in Uttarakhand, India. MEIL is playing a crucial role in the construction of this ambitious project. This broad-gauge railway line not only connects the revered Char Dham pilgrimage sites but also revolutionises travel in Uttarakhand.
The delicate rock composition in Himalayan mountain ranges demands specialised tunnelling methods, leading to the adoption of The New Austrian Tunnelling Method (NATM). The atmosphere, characterised by high volatility and elevated terrain, adds complexity. This clearly explains how tough it is to construct a broad-gauge railway line in the Himalayan region.
Working on Challenging Mountains
The Char Dham Railway Project boasts a design speed of 100 KMPH, with 13 stations, 16 tunnels covering 105.4 kilometres, and 16 major bridges. The gradient, at 1 in 80, speaks to the challenging inclines and declines along the track. This ratio signifies that for every 80 units of horizontal distance, elevation is changed by 1 unit.
The 125.20-km-long Rishikesh – Karnaprayag Railway Tunnel project in Uttarakhand is a single-track broad gauge railway line with 12 stations. It is divided into 9 packages, and the MEIL executes two packages, 7B and 8.
The Char Dham Railway Project spans 110 kilometres, which includes 35 bridges, 12 stations and 17 tunnels. MEIL has undertaken the construction of 38 kilometres railway line in two distinct segments (Segment 7B and Segment 8). These segments include crucial components like escape tunnels and Cross Packages (CPs), serving as vital links connecting main and escape tunnels. The project covers significant locations such as Rishikesh, Shivpuri, Vyasi, Devprayag, Srinagar, Dhari, Tilani, Gholtir, Gauchar, and Karnprayag.
Tackling Tunnels and Bridges
In the segment -7, the main tunnel, T-13, is about 9,381 metres long, and a parallel escape tunnel of similar length is also under construction. Devprayag, the sacred confluence of the Bhagirathi and Alaknanda, holds a unique significance in this work segment. The tunnel includes an escape tunnel of the same length, ensuring safety and accessibility. Cross Packages, resembling a structural ladder, interlink the main and escape tunnels.
Scaling Heights with Tunnels and Bridges
Segment 8 covers a length of 13.5 kilometers having Tunnels -14 (6528 meters) and -15 (7044 meters) length. The company's scope of work includes the construction of tunnels, bridges and two box culverts and a 35-metre-long steel Road Over Bridge (ROB), 12 railway station yards between Sumerpur and Gaucher at an altitude of over 800 m within the stretch.
The most interesting station yard, the Gholtir station, strategically located on a hilltop, provides a picturesque setting for the railway track. Gholtir village, perched atop a hill, witnesses the train track winding alongside the river under the hill. Escape tunnels, cross packages, and Audit Tunnel 15 complete the comprehensive project.
Upon completion, the Char Dham Railway Project promises to significantly reduce travel time between Rishikesh and Karnprayag. What once took seven hours will now be achieved in just two hours, marking a transformative change for the region.
Recognition and Awards
The project's excellence has not gone unnoticed. The Rail Vikas Nigam Limited RVNL has commended the MEIL for doing speedy work and awarded the company as the best contractor for the Char Dham Project. Despite topographic challenges, completed 10 km tunnel works on a war-foot in package -7. In 2023, appreciation followed for completing 12.5 km of work in both segments. It is a milestone given the region's arduous geography.