Pamban bridge: India’s first vertical lift bridge over sea in Rameswaram faces ‘curve’ test

The RVNL has set a deadline of 30 June to make the bridge operational and its officials say that they are trying their level best to meet it.


Published Apr 09, 2024 | 8:11 PMUpdatedApr 09, 2024 | 8:12 PM

Pamban bridge

By Jeevan Prakash Sharma

A sharp curve in the upcoming Pamban railway bridge, India’s first vertical-lift bridge connecting the country’s mainland with Rameswaram island, has become an additional challenge for the Railways besides its mechanical peculiarity and a rough sea.

The Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL), which is constructing this 2.08-km-long bridge, is facing a huge challenge in moving a lift span, which is 72.5 m long, 16 m wide and weighs 550 tonne, from the Rameshwaram end to 450 m in the sea to fix it to the bridge.

“We started moving this lift span on 10 March and to date, we have moved the 550-ton lift span 80 m towards the centre of the bridge. The biggest challenge is the 2.65 degree of curved alignment of the bridge. Had it been straight, we would have moved it faster,” a senior official of RVNL said, adding the curved shape was essential due to various alignment changes.

The movement of the lift span to its final fixing point shall be completed by the end of May, as it still has to be carried 370 m more.

“Once we cross the curved portion, we can expedite its movement. We have taken a huge precaution while moving it in the sea as its size and weight require great precision at each step,” the official said.

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Deadline set to 30 June

The RVNL has set a deadline of 30 June to make the bridge operational and its officials say that they are trying their level best to meet it.

“Once the lift span is fixed, the remaining work is no big deal,” an RVNL official said.

He added, “This lift span can be lifted up automatically up to 17 m for ships to pass. It will take 5 minutes to go up and the same time to come down and will be scheduled in such a way so that train services shouldn’t be disrupted.”

The RVNL got this lift span designed by Spanish firm TYPSA and it was manufactured at Sattirakkudi Railway Station, which is 20 km away from the sea coast.

“We brought it in various parts and assembled it here at the coast because it was not possible to carry such a huge structure from the manufacturing point,” the RVNL official said.

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Train service suspended

The train services between Mandapam on the mainland and Rameswaram island were suspended on 23 December, 2022 after the existing rail bridge, which was built in 1913, was declared non-operational from a safety point of view.

“When the Pamban bridge was operational, trains used to move to the bridge and reach Rameshwaram. They used to move slowly on the Pamban bridge and reach the pilgrimage town in about 15 minutes,” a Southern Railway official said.

At present, all trains terminate at Mandapam and people use road routes to reach Rameswaram. Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of the new bridge, parallel to the old one, in November 2019 and the work was started in February 2020 by RVNL.

It was supposed to be completed by December 2021, however, the deadline was extended due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the Southern Railway, the 2.08-km-long bridge will allow the Indian Railways to operate trains at a higher speed and it will also increase traffic between the mainland of India and Rameswaram island.

Till a road bridge was constructed in 1988, train services were the only link connecting Mandapam to Rameswaram island situated in the Gulf of Mannar.

According to the Southern Railway, the substructure of the bridge has been built for the double lines and the navigational span will also have provision for double lines.

(Disclaimer: The headline, subheads, and intro of this report along with the photos may have been reworked by South First. The rest of the content is from a syndicated feed, and has been edited for style.)