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Maharashtra: Konkan Railway hit by water seepage in Pernem tunnel

Updated on: 11 July,2024 07:47 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Rajendra B. Aklekar |

1,560-metre-long passage in Goa has a history of problems

Maharashtra: Konkan Railway hit by water seepage in Pernem tunnel

Konkan Railway officials inspect the work in the passage

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Maharashtra: Konkan Railway hit by water seepage in Pernem tunnel

The Pernem tunnel stopped the Konkan Railway (KR) in its tracks yet again. Trains on the KR route were halted for a second consecutive day following seepage of water in the tunnel in Goa and only resumed at 8.35 pm on Wednesday. Chairman and Managing Director of KR Santosh Kumar Jha and his team have been camping at the site for the past two days. There are 100-plus workers at the site continuously monitored by 20 to 25 supervisors. “Senior officials of the level of chief engineer are at the site. In addition to this, our consultants are there. We also have a few international consultants who are reaching the site, and we are confident that we will be able to stop the oozing water spring inside the tunnel by this evening,” said.

Flooded tracks inside the Pernem tunnel
Flooded tracks inside the Pernem tunnel 

Disruption on Tuesday

“On July 9 at 2.35 pm, water was seeping out of the Pernem tunnel between the Madure and Pernem section at km 386/6-7 of the Karwar region of Konkan Railway. The issue was attended to and a track fit certificate was given at 10.13 pm. The first train, Veraval Express, then left the site at 10.34 pm. Jha, along with the director (finance), principal chief engineer and other officers, have been at the site,” said the KR spokesperson. KR stated that all possible assistance has been offered to passengers through announcements and by keeping canteens functional.

History of problems

In 2020, a wall collapse inside the Pernem tunnel paralysed services on KR for nearly 40 days. KR records recall how the Pernem tunnel has always been a problem since its construction days. The delay in fixing the tunnel delayed the opening of the KR project for five months in the late 1990s. One of the founding engineers and former managing director of the KR project Dr E Sreedharan, said, “The soil in the tunnel there becomes like toothpaste. The unexpected geology and soft soil in Pernem and Old Goa tunnels lead to accidents and collapses.”

Dr Sreedharan had to procure a specially identified high-tech machine from Germany and get it air-freighted to India. “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 the 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 S V Salelkar in his book ‘A Treatise on Konkan Railway.’

“Pernem is a 1,560-metre-long tunnel. 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, were 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 by KR, ‘A Dream Come True.’ KR has 91 tunnels, totalling 84 km in length. Tunnels totalling 3,500 m in length on weak soil, mainly in Goa and Karnataka, posed the most problems during construction.

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