The 445-km Kothavalasa-Kirandul line, popularly called the KK line, runs through the dense mountains of the Eastern Ghats. It is the steepest broad-gauge freight line in the Indian Railways and connects the NMDC’s iron ore mines in Chattisgarh with the steel plants and the port in Vishakhapatnam. With 58 tunnels and 84 major bridges, it is the country’s highest broad-gauge freight line.
On October 7th, a massive boulder weighing almost 700 tonnes broke off a mountain in the Araku Valley region, in Andhra Pradesh and fell upon ‘Bridge 249’ — an 85-metre, 50-year-old bridge — shattering its pier and dislodging its iron girders.
In just five days, the Indian Railways started to restore the bridge, which included building a 28-metre pier rooted in the rock-face and diverting a waterfall with a sharp eight-degree curve and laying down the steep tracks.
The East Coast Railway Zone is working on the project, which is being monitored 24X7 with drones and other wireless feeds, and the Railway Board is keeping track of the proceedings. “We are on a tight schedule. Traffic will be restored by December 12, as targeted,” Umesh Singh, General Manager of the East Coast Railway, told The Sunday Express.
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The restoration has been estimated to cost ₹7 crore, according to the project executioner — the Waltair Division of the East Coast Railway. The work involved is complex. First, the damaged pier that held the bridge upright needed to be broken. Next, the girder needed to be removed, and a fresh pier was made. All this, while negotiating a hostile terrain which is unsuitable for workers and heavy machinery.
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“From the day the damage was discovered, we have been in war mode. An emergency single tender was given out within a couple of days. We are losing around ₹2 crore per day in the absence of the line, so the timeline for the job is non-negotiable,” Mukul S Mathur, Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) of the Waltair Division, informed The Indian Express.