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Apr 05, 2004
Konkan Rail in E Sreedharan’s words

The legend of Konkan railway and its architect E Sreedharan are widely enough known and GoodNewsIndia has done a major story on it.

There are good reasons why the railway is everyone’s darling. It runs close to 1000 km, rides over 8000 bridges [179 of them, major], snakes through 92 tunnels and at its highest point it runs at an elevation close to the Kutub Minar’s top.

It benefits 3 states and cuts the travel time between Mangalore and Mumbai from the earlier 41 hours to 15. To build it, land had to be acquired from 40,000 land owners and hundreds of contractors had to be co-ordinated. Yet, it was completed in 7 years.

How did Sreedharan do it in a country notorious for delays? We have now Sreedharan’s own words explaining how. In a lecture in 2001, as part of a series called ‘Ideas that worked’, organised by the Ministry of Personnel, Government of India, Sreedharan shared his experience with an audience of bureaucrats. Do not look for great prose. It is the transcript of plain words spoken by a no-nonsense, hands-on man given to ‘doing it’ rather than talking about it. But what comes through is a story of many odds and how he overcome them.

Sreedharan innovated on many fronts: financial, technical, managerial and political. He introduced many engineering technologies from the world over and adapted them well for India. Some of these like optic fibre cables are commonplace now, but were avant garde in the early 1990s. Other novel technologies went by names like gas pressure welding, incremental launching of bridge decks, ballastless tracks, tunneling and tunnel ventilation innovations. The tracks were laid for trains that would one day run at 160 kmph. Tracks are near level despite the undulating terrain.

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