There is an urgent need to construct about 700 bridges in the difficult terrains of Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and the northeastern States to secure the country’s boundaries at these high altitudes.

The concern to speed up the construction of these bridges was raised at a two-day International Seminar on Pre Engineered and Quick Launch Bridges, which commenced here over the weekend, organised jointly by the Border Roads Organisation and Indian Institution of Bridge of Engineers.

Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways C. P. Joshi was the chief guest at the function which was attended by officials from the railways, MoRTH and the defence. The seminar emphasised the need to evolve new technology for constructing bridges in a short span of time.

There are about 2.33 lakh rail and road bridges in the country with about 33,000 rail bridges over a hundred years old.

The seminar, however, focussed on the need to construct over 700 road bridges in the difficult Himalayan ranges where landslides wreak havoc and uproot bridges. As per estimates, it will require construction of 35 km when the construction cost per metre of bridge ranges from Rs.6 lakh to Rs.10 lakh at those high altitudes. This means the country will have to arrange for a whopping Rs.25,000 crore at current prices to put these bridges in place over a span of five to seven years.

Participants regretted that funds for the cause were not forthcoming and questioned the government’s concern over the country’s economic development when such pertinent security issues remained unaddressed. Without commenting on the issue, Dr. Joshi expressed confidence that pre-engineered and quick launch bridges would be of big help especially in crisis situations.

Railway Board Chairman Vinay Mittal pointed out that with 33,000 rail bridges over a hundred years old it had become imperative to evolve technology that would facilitate quick construction of bridges. Similarly to eliminate 13,500 unmanned level crossings, road over bridges were needed.

The railways are currently developing designs to carry trains at a speed of 160 kilometre per hour. He said research projects were being undertaken in association with IIT-Kharagpur.

BRO Director General Lt. Gen. S. Ravi Shankar emphasised the need to go beyond the Bailey bridge and come up with new designs to cater to heavy load vehicles. He regretted that most IITs failed to respond to their invitation to put heads together and find a solution.