major bridge work was recently completed in Madurai Division near Tirunelveli,
Tamil nadu, without much fanfare. Great care was taken to ensure that not many
train services were affected. The transition from iron girders to concrete
girders in phases, without disturbing the overhead electrical lines was not
easy. But it was done successfully by the engineering team of Madurai Division
over a period of several Sundays.
Madurai division of the Indian Railways, in Tamil nadu, has been credited with
completing a major bridge work successfully by working only on Sundays. On no
other working days was the regular train traffic affected for the purpose of
competing the bridge work. Even on Sundays, except the
passenger train services to and from Tiruchendur (a major pilgrimage centre in
the area), not many train services were affected by this major engineering work.
Railway officials have clarified that the
bridge work was successfully carried out after
suspending train traffic on the line for six hours from 10.00 hrs to 16.00 hrs
for seventeen Sundays from 22nd February 2015 to 14th June
2015. In a second phase train traffic was suspended only for two and half hours
for four Sundays in July 2015. It is particularly notable that the entire work
was carried out without affecting train traffic on weekdays and Saturdays.
The main work involved successfully replacing age
old steel girders with pre-stressed concrete girders
on a major bridge between Tirunelveli and Nagercoil. The specialty of the bridge
is that immediately after crossing it the line branches in two directions, one
to Tiruchendur and the other to Nagercoil.
The history of this bridge – number four at Kokkarakulam near Tirunelveli -
dates back to pre-independence era. It was constructed as per metre gauge
standards in 1922.
Many years after Independence, in 1978, a mixed gauge arrangement (both braoad
and metre gauges) was introduced on the bridge to accommodate the Tirunelveli –
Nagercoil broad gauge section. This was done by strengthening the piers with RCC
(reinforced concrete cement) jacketing to support the mixed gauge standards.
Subsequently, in 2008, when the Tirunelveli – Tiruchendur broad gauge conversion
was also completed, the bridge was converted to broad gauge standard.
This vital bridge was programmed for replacement of corroded steel girders into
PSC (pre-stressed concrete) slab (25 tonne axle loading) due to its age,
condition and loading standard. The estimated cost of construction was Rs.8.40
crores. The PSC Slabs of 14.4 metre spans, specifically designed to suit the
existing piers, were designed by the team of railway engineers led by Shri
M.Suyambulingam, Chief Bridge Engineer, Southern Railway, Chennai.
Madurai Division officials under Shri Sunil Kumar Garg, Divisional Railway
Manager, then formulated the programme of bridge reconstruction from February to
July 2015 by segregating the massive work into manageable parts that could be
completed in 6 hour blocks on Sundays.
Subsequently, the engineering team led by Shri Samson Vijayakumar, the then
Senior Divisional Engineer (South) along with Shri T.N.Uthamanathan, Assistant
Divisional Engineer, Tirunelveli successfully launched the girders and competed
the work from February to July 2015. The progress of the work was overseen by
Shri Sunil Kumar Garg, Divisional Railway Manager, Shri RVB Babu, Additional
Divisional Railway Manager, and Shri S.Kannan, Senior Divisional Engineer
(Co-ordination) from time to time.
Now that the steel girders have been replaced with PSC girders, the speed
restriction on the bridge will be relaxed in due course and trains can be run at
a faster speed.
Another positive effect of the replacement work is that the bridge has become a
maintenance free structure. The earlier steel girders had to be painted and
The conversion to PSC girders has also resulted in preventing contamination of
the ecologically significant Thamraparni River that is the life line of the
Tirunelveli and Nagercoil districts of Tamilnadu. Rust from the steel girders
used to fall into the Thamraparni River occasionally, as a result of corrosion.
Such contamination has now been avoided with PSC girders.
*Assistant Director, PIB,Madurai. (With inputs from Madurai Railway Division).