Bogibeel Bridge: Narendra Modi to gift nation 4.6-km marvel and country's longest rail-road bridge over Brahmaputra today

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the Bogibeel Bridge, India's longest rail-cum-road connecting the north and south banks of the turbulent Brahmaputra in the eastern parts of Assam, on Christmas Day. The 4.6-kilometre-long structure will be the fourth rail-road bridge on the Brahmaputra river in Assam, the others being the Saraighat Bridge, Naranarayan Setu and the New Saraighat Bridge.

Bogibeel's inauguration comes a year after Modi inaugurated the country's longest bridge, the Dhola-Sadiya, over the Lohit river in 2017.

File photo of Bogibeel bridge. Wikimedia Commons

File photo of Bogibeel Bridge. Wikimedia Commons

Former prime minister HD Deve Gowda had laid the foundation stone for the Bogibeel Bridge in January 1997, but work on the project began only in April 2002 when former prime Atal Bihari Vajpayee inaugurated the construction. Originally scheduled to be inaugurated in 2009, the project had missed several deadlines over the years.

Initially estimated to cost Rs 3,230.02 crore, the Bogibeel Bridge was finally built with Rs 4,857 crore. The escalation was attributed to an increase in its length to almost 5 kilometres against the initial 4.94 kilometres proposed. It includes the main bridge, dykes on the north and south banks, road network of 30 kilometres, rail network of 74 kilometres and six new railway stations.

The superstructure of the bridge was built by the joint venture of Hindustan Construction Company (, Germany-based DSD Brouckenbau and VNR Infrastructure. HCC had earlier claimed that a total of 70,000 metric tonnes of steel would be used to complete the superstructure, which will be equivalent to 10 Eiffel Towers. It is also the country's only bridge to have fully welded steel-concrete composite girders. The total length of welding to be carried out is about 12,800 kilometres, equivalent to circling around the moon 1.5 times. One of the stiffest challenges during its construction was to construct guide bunds on the wild river within four to five months a year because of the monsoon and that floods in the season, a senior official of the North East Frontier Railway had said. Another problem was the transportation of concrete across the river channels of 600-metre to 900-metre width from both the banks.

There are 42 sub-structures, or piers, in the bridge, which were constructed by Gammon India.

Connectivity boost

Located just over 20 kilometres from the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border, the Bogibeel Bridge will connect Dibrugarh in Assam to Kulajan in Dhemaji district, which will make commuting to Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh easy. It has a three-lane road on the upper level and a broad gauge, double-line railway track on the lower level. The bridge is 32 metres above the water level of the Brahmaputra and fashioned on a bridge linking Sweden and Denmark. While the journey from Dibrugarh to Delhi currently takes more than 37 hours, the new bridge is likely to reduce the commute by three hours.

Speaking to The Economic Times, Chief Public Relations Officer of North East Frontier Railway, S Lahiri, said the primary objective was to provide railway connectivity between lesser developed districts of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh in the river's north and south banks. The rail line will be linked to Chowalkhowa, which is 5.83 kilometres from Dibrugarh, on the south bank and between Sisi Borgaon and Sirpani on the north bank. Lahiri added that the bridge will provide direct access to the districts of upper Assam from the rest of the country through the north bank without "having to take the tortuous" route through Guwahati in the south bank.

Explaining further, Mahender Singh, chief engineer (construction) of the Bogibeel project, said"Now, to go from Dibrugarh to Arunachal Pradesh by train, one has to go via Guwahati with a more than 500-kilometre detour. With this bridge, the journey will be less than 100 kilometres."

The first trial train journey on the Bogibeel Bridge was conducted from Dhamalgaon Railway Station in Dibrugarh to Tangani Railway Station in Dhemaji on 22 October. On 2 December, the North East Frontier Railway piloted the first freight train. Union Minister of Railways Piyush Goyal tweeted a video of the first loaded freight train.

What's in a name?

Even before the much-touted inauguration of the bridge, Bogibeel has been mired in controversy because of its name. A large number of people belonging to the Chutia community staged massive protests in Golaghat district on 17 November in the state, demanding that the bridge be renamed after Chutia dynasty queen Sati Sadhini.

Speaking to The Sentinel, secretary of the Chutia Students' Union, Mohen Bora had said, “Every government has ignored the problems of the community and failed to honour our forefathers. The state government should show respect by naming the Bogibeel Bridge as Biranga Sadhani Setu,” he said.

Local North Eastern dailies have reported that in 1962, Dibrugarh Nagarik Sangha had first first raised the demand to construct a bridge to connect Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, reports India Today.

Earlier. too, BJP MLA from Dibrugarh, Prasanta Phukan, had proposed to have the bridge named after Vajpayee since it was the former prime minister who had inaugurated its construction.

Enhance defence logistics along China border

India and China share a nearly 4,000-kilometre-long border, with almost 75 percent in Arunachal Pradesh. Bogibeel is part of infrastructure projects India has planned to improve logistics along the border in Arunachal Pradesh. This includes the construction of a trans-Arunachal highway on the north bank of the Brahmaputra as well as new road and rail links over the mighty river and its major tributaries such as the Dibang, Lohit, Subansiri and Kameng.

Till now, rail and road link to Arunachal Pradesh is through three Assam bridges — Jogighopa in Bongaigaon district, Saraighat near Guwahati and Kolia-Bhomora between Sonitpur and Nagaon.

The other alternative is crossing by ferry, but it is not suitable for heavy cargo and during the six months of monsoons between May and October when ferry services often remain disrupted.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Dec 25, 2018 07:37:56 IST

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