Katra-Banihal Rail project hits a road block

Expert committee headed by former Delhi Metro chief E Sreedharan rejects the existing alignment plan

GN Bureau | February 26, 2015


#railway budget 2015   #katra banihal rail project   #e sreedharan  

In a major blow to the Indian government’s ambitious project of constructing a railway line between Katra and Banihal, the expert committee headed by E Sreedharan has raised serious concerns over the existing ‘alignment’ to implement the project.

The biggest concern for the expert committee is the proposed bridge on river Chenab and is the major reason for the delay in the implementation of the project. Flagging its concern the committee in the report states, “All members of this Committee have serious reservations on the safety and stability of this bridge.  On this score alone we are unable to endorse the present contour alignment with 1 in 80 grade which has necessitated this enormous Arch Bridge albeit this being a signature bridge.”

However the committee has favored the alternative ‘alignment’ prepared by chief engineer Alok Verma.

The project which was announced during the tenure of prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2002 was supposed to be completed in 2007 but due to alleged faulty lay out not conducive to the difficult terrain of the region, is still far from completion.

The expert committees have cited several reasons highlighting the 359-metre high bridge's "inadequate" safety factor.

The committee has categorically remarked that in case of ant damage to the bridge, restoration will take a minimum of five to six years, which will seriously disrupt the communication line in the region.

Favoring the alternative alignment prepared by chief engineer Alok Verma, the committee observed, “cutting across mountain ranges and folds at right angles or near right angles and tucked deep into the mountains away from dangerous slopes is the right solution"

Alok Verma has advocated the new type of alternative alignment which he claimed was economical, safe and based on latest technology adopted by china and other countries.

Following the Delhi high court order instructing Railway Board to set up a new committee of experts to examine relative merits and demerits of the existing and the alternative alignment, committee under E Sreedharan was constituted which submitted its report on February 4.

                                                                  Major findings of the Expert committee


On safety and stability of the bridge

Flagging serious concern over the  safety and stability of the proposed bridge committee observed, “ On this score alone we are unable to endorse the present contour alignment with 1 in 80 grade which has necessitated this enormous Arch Bridge albeit this being a signature bridge.”

Favoring the alternative alignment

As per the data provided, the new proposed alignment is shorter by 36 km with only 8 tunnels and 7 bridges with near straight alignment all through.  It has 7 stations with average inter station distance of 8.70 km.  The new line is proposed to be constructed as double line with single track parallel tunnels with cross passages at intervals of 350 metres.  The tunnels are located near the base of the mountain range and cross it perpendicular or near to perpendicular.  The bridges are at the floor of the valley and cross the valley at or near right angle.  The new alignment crosses the faults at close to 90 degree thus providing better conditions for tunneling, stability of slopes and reduces susceptibility to land slide hazards.  In the new alignment, mega bridges over Chenab and Anji are replaced by smaller bridges.  Rescue and relief operation will be basically rail based. The double line will give enough line capacity for all time to come.

On considerations of constructability, stability, survivability, safety in train operations, quick and easy evacuation of passengers from tunnels, saving in travel time, more capacity, etc, the new alignment with 1 in 44 grade is undoubtedly superior.

The Committee’s assessment is the new proposed line can be constructed faster and possibly at a lesser cost than what it would take for the balance works on the existing alignment to be completed provided it meets the acceptable technical limits as a result of detailed on site survey – fixing control points, geological, geotechnical investigations.

Train derailments will be very minimal on account of straight alignment. The present alignment, having a number of sharp curves will be more susceptible to train derailments in addition to more wear and tear on curves.

Shortcomings of present alignment

We feel the project cannot be completed by any stretch of imagination before December 2022 i.e. in 8 years if the present pattern and style of implementation is followed. The cost of the project will escalate astronomically on account of price escalation, claims of contractors and unforeseen items of major works.

COMPARISON OF THE ALIGNMENTS

ITEM

Existing Alignment

Proposed alignment

(Conceived by Alok Verma)

Route length

106 km

70.0 km

Number of lines

Single line

Double line

Number of tunnels

28 Nos.

8 Nos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Number of bridges

32 No

7 No

Timeline of the project

July’2002

The project to link Kashmir Valley declared a National Project and inauguration of the Katra-Qazigund section by PM, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee

August’2007

The original target for completion

Nov-Dec’2007

Chief Engineer Alok Verma presented his study of the alignment, and Board initiated review of alignment

July’2008

Construction on the alignment suspended

Dec’2008

The first Expert Committee appointed to examine the existing and the new type of alternative alignment

Aug’2009

Board decides to retain the existing alignment even as 92 km out of total 126 km of the alignment was abandoned.

Dec’2012

Report by CAG on mishandling of the project right from its inception. The report says that the alignment was decided and construction  begun without proper ground studies.

Sept’2010

Hon’ble High Court of Delhi passed strictures against two of the then Board Members for preventing proper consideration of the alternative alignment suggested by Alok Verma in the review of alignment

May’2013

Hon’ble High Court of Delhi orders Railway Board to set up a new committee of experts to examine relative merits and demerits of the existing and the alternative alignment. Court also said the Dr E. Sreedharan shall be requested to be a part of this committee while Board will nominate other members.

24.11.14

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) holds Railway accountable for losses totalling Rs 3259 crore on account of construction failures on the Katra-Banihal section and says that responsibility should be fixed by the Ministry of Railway.

02.12.2014

Board appointed the Committee

04.02.15

The Committee submitted its report

 

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