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Bilaspur-Leh Rail To Be An Engineering Marvel

Himachal This Week, Kullu

railway lineExpansion of rail network and broad gauging of existing rail network in hill state has remained a long pending demand of Himachal. But what the state has got in return is only surveys. That too without any concrete or fruitful result for the state. People and political leaders in Himachal have a general complaint from the Union Government that if rail network can witness expansion in disturbed region like Jammu and Kashmir, what deters them in doing the same in Himachal. And that too when it is extremely important both in terms of tourism and defense and geographical importance. However experts of this field feel that Jammu – Kashmir and Bilaspur – Leh network is altogether a different ball game.  The Union Government has approved survey for Bilaspur–Leh rail line that began in September 2016. The Bilaspur-Manali-Leh route is about 650 kilometres by road. It remains closed for five months in a year, thus making it difficult for people as well as defence personnel. That is why this route becomes more important. The Northern Railways is undertaking the final location survey covering out all important aspects like challenges that terrain and geology will throw and feasibility of rail track at all the required gradients. Experts of this field feel that laying railway track from Bilaspur to Kullu will be a relatively less difficult task. But the real challenges will emerge between Manali and Leh where 300 kms of 470 km remains covered in snow for most of the time.The line passes through four mountain passes ranging from 3,976 metre to 5,360 m. Each pass will have unique challenges with the most challenging being Taglang La at over 5300 m. To add to the already existing geographical challenges is temperature variation that ranges from minus 30 degree celsius to plus 30 degree celsius. Then there are avalanches on the way. Knowledgeable persons feel that the proposed line falls in seismic zones 4 and 5 and shall pass through a number of tectonic faults and thrust zones. Besides this, there will be a challenge of connecting to the villages despite all these difficulties. Railways like roads cannot have steep turns and gradients. So a large part of the track may pass through tunnels, they adds.In fact experts feels that Bilaspur-Leh project will be the most challenging project for the Indian railways. Where Udhampur project had only one Himalayan range, Pir Panjal, Bilaspur- Leh project will witness engineering challenge of four Himalayan ranges. The engineering difficulty could be assessed from the fact that highest point in the Udhampur-Baramulla line is 1750 m but in case of Bilaspur-Leh line it is over 5300 m.

Engineering Challenges

*          Highest point in Bilaspur-Leh line will pass areas at over 5300 m whereas the same in the Udhampur-Baramulla line is 1750 m

*          Udhampur project had only one Himalayan range (Pi Panjal), Bilaspur- Leh project will witness engineering challenge of four Himalayan ranges

*          The proposed line falls in seismic zones 4 and 5 and shall pass through a number of tectonic faults and thrust zones

*          Temperature variation in proposed line ranges from minus 30 degree celsius to plus 30 degree celsius

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