Dibrugarh (Assam), April 25 (IANS) The railways are battling time and resource crunch to complete the country's longest 4.94 km rail-cum-road-bridge across the mighty Brahmaputra at Bogibeel that will provide connectivity to upper Assam and Arunachal Pradesh and cut down by 10 hours access to the border with China.
The railways say they hope to complete the bridge by 2015. The bridge is set to strengthen national security as it would reduce time to reach the China border by around 10 hours in case troops and supplies have to be moved, officials say.
There are concerns over the delay in the Rs. 3,230-crore project as the rising cost of construction, combined with a resource crunch, could push the final cost to around Rs 4,000 crore (800 USD).
According to officials, the bridge will also provide connectivity to around five million people residing in upper Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
Once completed, the Bogibeel bridge would have an edge over the Tezpur bridge, which is around 300 km downstream, in providing connectivity to the people of upper Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, officials said.
Construction work can only be carried out from mid-November to mid-March as rains in the remaining period swell the mighty river.
'We hope to complete the project by 2015,' chief engineer Ajit Pandit told IANS.
Though the foundation stone of the Bogibeel bridge project was laid by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2002, the pace of work got a boost only after it got the status of national project in 2007 and central funds started flowing.
The project flows from the Assam Accord signed Aug 15, 1985, between the centre and the representatives of the All Assam Students Union and the All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad that had spearheaded a decade-long movement against the influx of Bangladeshis into the northeastern state.
Engineers involved in the project said latest technology is being used to build the superstructure of the bridge, which will be largely maintenance-free.
Hoping to commission the Bogibeel bridge in the next three years, the railways have started conversion work from metre gauge to broad gauge on the 32-km link from Dhamalgaon to Sisibargaon on the north bank of the river.
A 44-km rail link on the south bank of the river between Chalkhowa and Moranhat has also been commissioned.
As the width of the river at the bridge site is around 10 km, two guide bunds on both the north and south banks have been constructed at a cost of Rs 800 crore to regulate the flow of the river. Guide bunds are protection walls to regulate the flow of the river.
(Amit Agnihotri can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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