Pernem tunnel comes back to haunt Konkan Railway, again

Updated: 08 August, 2020 07:32 IST | Rajendra B Aklekar | Mumbai

Incessant rain, weak soil leads to wall collapse in the tunnel; KR services paralysed till Aug 20

Tunnelling works at Pernem was completed around January 10, 1998
Tunnelling works at Pernem was completed around January 10, 1998

A wall collapse inside the Pernem tunnel on Thursday morning has paralysed the services on Konkan Railway (KR) and the trains are now being diverted via Miraj-Pune route. A KR note said eight trains will be diverted till August 20.

Old-timers and KR records recall how Pernem tunnel has always been a problem, which alone had delayed the entire KR project for five months. KR has 91 tunnels, adding up to 84 km in length. However, tunnels totalling 3,500 metres in length on weak soil, mainly in Goa and Karnataka, posed the most problems during construction. Recalling the construction days, former managing director Dr E Sreedharan said, "The soil in the tunnels became like toothpaste. The unexpected geology and soft soil in Pernem and Old Goa tunnels were leading to accidents and collapses."

"Pernem is a 1,560-metre-long tunnel. Work on this had started in January 1992, first on the north-face and later on the south-face. The excavation was difficult as the soil was mixed with both hard and soft rocks and then soil. In the monsoon of 1992, both the north and south end collapsed, taking three months for rectification. Again in 1993 monsoon, more collapses occurred. Such collapses continued till 1997 and strategy had to be altered every time. This tunnel took the longest time to complete," explains former engineer and advisor SV Salelkar in his book 'A treatise on Konkan Railway.' In the Pernem tunnel, eight fatalities have occurred at different times after rocks caved in during excavation.

Tunnelling works at Pernem, which cost R6.49 crore was completed around January 10, 1998. Only after this, the last section on the KR between Sawantwadi and Pernem (22 km) was opened for traffic on January 26, 1998 - states another book Konkan Railway, 'A Dream Come True.'

Another engineer SS Bhatnagar recalled how while work on the tunnel was underway, Dr Sreedharan had to procure a specially identified hi-tech machine from Germany and get it air-freighted to India.

'Kisan Express' for farmers flagged off

Narendra Singh Tomar and Railway Minister Piyush Goyal on Friday flagged off a train for farmers called ‘Kisan Rail’ to provide a seamless supply chain of agricultural and perishable produce between Devlali in Nashik to Danapur. Officials said given the high production of onions near Nashik, the train will be beneficial for farmers to transport their produce. This train will have 10 parcel vans and one luggage cum brake van and will cover a distance of 1,519 km in 31.45 hrs on one trip.

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First Published: 08 August, 2020 07:30 IST

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