India Constructs World’s Highest Railway Bridge
The tallest railway bridge in the world is now located in India. The Chenab Bridge in India’s controversial Jammu and Kashmir area is 359 meters (about 109 feet) above the Chenab River, making it around 35 meters (about 10 feet) taller than the Eiffel Tower.
The Ministry of Railways announced in a March news release that the bridge in northern India, which has been under construction for decades, will be open to the public by the end of December 2023 or the beginning of January 2024.
A larger project to connect the Indian Railway network to the Kashmir Valley includes the 1,315-meter-long (4,314-foot) bridge. The Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link (USBRL) project also includes the first cable bridge built by Indian Railways and what will be the nation’s longest transportation tunnel. In addition to the Chenab Bridge.
Infrastructure projects like the Chenab Bridge and the larger rail link project can be seen by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who came to power in 2014 on a platform of nationalism and the promise of future greatness, as a potent tool for social integration and political influence, linking dispersed regions with important cities.
According to Michael Kugelman, director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center, “New Delhi will portray the bridge and the increased connectivity it’s intended to foster as yet another significant victory for the region’s development.”
By enabling all-weather rail connectivity between the valley and the rest of India, experts claim that connecting Kashmir with the rest of India by train will notably benefit the region’s industrial and agricultural sectors.
“We are getting a lot of problems going across the road,” Anil Kumar Mehendru, vice president of the New Kashmir Fruit Association, told CNN. “Once we will be connected by train with the rest of India, it will be a big boost to this industry, agriculture as well as fruit.”
Previously, the winding 300-kilometer (185-mile) Srinagar-Jammu national highway—which is frequently the scene of car accidents and closes for part of the winter—was the only land route connecting the Indian-controlled portions of Kashmir with the rest of the nation.
The bridge has political ramifications as well, according to Sushant Singh, a senior scholar at the Indian Center for Policy Research, as it is considered “a means of integrating Kashmir into India.”
According to Singh, “the hope historically” was that the railway link, including the Chenab Bridge, would make Kashmir “feel more like a part of India.”
However, Singh told CNN that it “remains to be seen” whether Kashmiris will view the increased connectivity provided by the bridge and rail link favorably given that “in recent years, Kashmir has been undermined by policies taken by Prime Minister Modi and his government which have alienated the Kashmiris.”
In 2019, India withdrew a constitutional clause allowing Kashmir’s Indian-controlled region to make its own laws. In a move that Modi touted as promoting stability, lowering corruption, and boosting the economy, the southern and eastern portions of the territory formerly known as the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir were split into two independent union territories.
“New Delhi’s message, following that move, was that it would leverage its greater degree of control over Jammu and Kashmir to bring it greater development benefits,” Kugelman said. “It will use the bridge as a high-visibility, eye-catching data point to argue its strategy is working.”
Despite the fact that the overall USBRL project was started in 2002 before Modi was elected prime minister, the Chenab Bridge is already hailed as a shining example of his initiatives to advance the nation’s development.
According to the press announcement from India’s Minister of Railways, Ashwini Vaishnaw, “The iconic Chenab Bridge is an example of such new chapters and dimensions of development materialized by the inspiring leadership of the Honorable Prime Minister.”
According to CNN station News18, Vaishnaw stated at a March news conference that Modi upped the USBRL project’s budget of less than $100 million by a factor of six since he took office in order to hasten the bridge’s construction after years of delays.
Indian infrastructure has received millions of dollars in upgrades. Modi opened the first part of the 1,386-kilometer (861-mile) expressway that connects the nation’s capital New Delhi to Mumbai’s financial district in February. The government stated in a press statement that the expressway’s 246-kilometer (153-mile) portion alone cost $1.4 billion.
The Western Dedicated Freight Corridor, which intends to relieve India’s railroad network of congestion, is also under construction.