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India’s New Pamban Bridge Nears Completion with Innovative Features

India is on the brink of unveiling its first-ever vertical lift railway bridge over the sea, connecting Rameswaram on Pamban Island to Mandapam on the mainland. This impressive engineering feat, set for inauguration by Prime Minister Narendra Modi soon, is being built alongside the current Pamban Bridge by Rail Vikas Nigam. The estimated cost for this project is around Rs 5.35 billion.

The new Pamban Bridge, with completion reaching nearly 90% since its foundation stone was laid by PM Narendra Modi in 2019, is designed to accommodate a double railway line and future electrification, aligning seamlessly with Indian Railways’ broad gauge network electrification initiative. Spanning just over 2 kilometers, the bridge features an impressive 99 spans, each boasting 18.3-meter-long girders, while the navigational span extends to 63 meters. Its pioneering addition of a vertical lift facility interconnected with the train control system, allows smooth passage for boats underneath.

During shipping traffic, rail operations pause, enabling the vertical lift span to ascend, providing ample clearance for boats and granting a full horizontal length of 72.5 meters for navigation. Noteworthy is its elevation standing 3 meters higher than its predecessor, offering a navigational air clearance of 22 meters above mean sea level, a significant advancement for maritime passage.

In contrast, the old Pamban Bridge, India’s first sea bridge inaugurated in 1914, relied on manual operation of the Scherzer’s Span, a 61-meter steel truss named after the bridge’s engineer. This truss opened up to 81 degrees in the vertical plane to allow boat passage. Unfortunately, due to concerns about its stability raised by IIT-Madras and the Research Design and Standards Organisation of Indian Railways, the old bridge ceased rail traffic in December 2022 and is no longer operational.

With the new Pamban Bridge, designated as Indian Railways’ Bridge No 346, ready to take its place, the older bridge is likely to be retired, potentially paving the way for its dismantling.

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