Bridging the Palk Strait Again: The New Pamban Bridge to Rameswaram

Whenever the old makes way for the new, there can be a sense of missing something that has been around for years. A sense of looking forward to something that is an improvement over the old. And a myriad of senses in between.

This is not the first time; neither will this be the last time that such things are happening in the world.

In what is the latest buzz around the Southern Railways, it is the Pamban Bridge that evokes such strong sentiments. Commissioned in 1915, this bridge over the sea connects the mainland town of Mandapam with the island town of Rameswaram.

The unique feature of the bridge is a span right in the middle that can lift up to give way to the ships passing underneath. Of course, all these movements are subject to traffic protocol between the railway and the maritime authorities.

This bridge has had an eventful life – major damage during the 1964 cyclonic storm and a barge-induced damage in 2013 were the major disruptors for rail traffic.

The railway authorities have deemed this bridge inadequate for the growing rail traffic in this area and have started construction on a new bridge.

The New Pamban Bridge

The new bridge is being constructed by Rail Vikas Nigam Limited, a project execution special purpose vehicle (SPV) of Indian Railways.

Key Statistics of the New Pamban Bridge

Sanctioned2016
StatusUnder Construction (Started November 2019)
CostRs 279 crore
Length2,050 metres
Expected Completion2022

Was this move due to some safety issues? “No, there were no safety issues. It is just that the bridge was inadequate to serve the increasing rail demands of the region. Besides, larger vessels also had to pass through under the bridge,” explains an officer who wished to remain anonymous.

“The new bridge enhances capacity as it will be built for holding two running railway lines,” he informs. The bridge is being built with latest technology and takes care of all concerns from all quarters, RailPost understands.

Biofouling, or biological fouling of the bridge pillars was a common problem, where marine organisms like barnacles and algae attach to the surface and erode the metal. “This is a major problem not only with Pamban but with many bridges,” says Krupa Ratnam, a marine biologist.

“There have been many inspections and so many measures have been taken to mitigate the problems of biofouling,” Ratnam adds. So, what is the way out? “These days, we have technologically advanced materials that can be used for surface coating the bridge pillars and areas exposed to water,” he informs, adding, “these are far more superior and have addressed the issues to a major extent.”

‘This bridge will have 100 spans of 25 metres each. The central span of 75-m length is the one that helps ships cross the bridge, ” informs the railway official. So, what about large ships going through? He answers, “the entire bridge is being built higher by about 3 metres from the existing bridge. The central span of 75 metres has a lifting mechanism that allows larger vessels than those going through at present.” This is certainly bound to help the maritime industry.

About the safety aspects given the cyclonic storms that form in the Bay of Bengal, the official says that the entire bridge is designed to the highest safety standards now in practice. Latest technology like reinforcement with stainless steel for the bridge pillars, use of latest composite materials providing high-performance coating to prevent biofouling, etc. are some of the measures being taken to make it very safe,” signs off the official.

As the old gives way to the new, and the Scherzer Span gives way to the lifting barrier, it is only fitting that Rameswaram has also recently got a direct connection to Ayodhya (Faizabad).

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About the Author: Sridhar Joshi

2 Comments

  1. Thats a wonderful article. Waiting to travel in new bridge to RMM and also to Dhanushkodi

    One of the main reason for new bridge is that electrification cannot be done in old bridge.
    I have one question. Pardon my ignorance. How they will electrify the middle part which will move up when a ship is about to pass

    The representative video is done using Diesel engine and hence could not visualize. Any Expert opinion ?

  2. What happens to the existing bridge? Are they planning to demolish it or would be retained as a monument?

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