India's longest railway bridge, on the 8.86-km line between Edappally and the site of the International Container Transshipment Terminal on Vallarpadam Island, has been named Vembanad after the backwaters that provide the idyllic background to making Kochi a global tourism icon.

The 4.62-km rail bridge flies over the picturesque backwaters and through a string of small islands off the coast of Kochi and takes the place of Nehru Sethu over River Son (3.065 kms) as the longest rail bridge in the country.

Official sources said here that naming a rail bridge was basically for identification and since Vembanad was the backwaters that surrounded Kochi it was chosen as the ideal name.

The rail connectivity to Vallarpadam Island was completed early this year and the first of the test runs was held in April.

There are four other smaller bridges in the new rail link to Vallarpadam, which cost a total of Rs. 350 crore in the making.

The new container transhipment terminal is being projected as India's largest marine cargo hub of the future.

The building of the rail bridge, by Rail Vikas Nigam Limited, involved heavy engineering odds.

The soil conditions were a challenge that RVNL engineers overcame with great élan. The bridges have been built on 1.2-diametre piles driven to an average depth of 55 metres. The total pile length is 65,000 metres.

Besides, 11,700 tonnes of reinforced steel; 58,000 tonnes of cement; 99,000 cubic metres of metal aggregates; 73,500 cubic metres of sand; 1,27,000 cubic metres of concrete work and 1,54,308 cubic metres of earth work went into building the new railway link.

A total of 12.5 hectares were acquired for the rail link project work.

These included both government land and land belonging to the Cochin Port Trust. The completion of the project also involved building a new railway station at Edappally.

Despite the enormity of the work involved and the challenges the work was executed as per the time schedule. Work on the rail link began in June 2007.

Building of a railway link for the container transhipment project is part of agreement between Cochin Port Trust and India Gateway Terminals Limited, which will run the transshipment container terminal.

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