Pamban Bridge is a railway bridge which connects the town of Rameswaram on Pamban Island to mainland India. Opened on 24 February 1914, it was India's first sea bridge, and was the longest sea bridge in India until the opening of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link in 2010. The rail bridge is, for the most part, a conventional bridge resting on concrete piers, but has a double-leaf bascule section midway, which can be raised to let ships and barges pass through. Until 1988, the Pamban bridge was the only surface transport that connected Tamil Nadu's island of Rameswaram to the mainland.
In 1988, a road bridge was also constructed parallel to the rail bridge. This road bridge is also known as Indira Gandhi Road Bridge. The Pamban Road Bridge connects the National Highway (NH 49) with the Rameswaram island. It stands on the Palk Strait and between the shores of Mandapam (a place on the Indian mainland) and Pamban (one of the fishermen town in Rameswaram island). It was inaugurated by former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on 2 October 1988. This 2.345 km long Bridge took close to 14 years to be completed.
|Locale||Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, India|
|Total length||6,776 feet (2,065 m)|
|No. of spans||144|
|No. of tracks||1|
|Track gauge||broad gauge|
The Pamban railway bridge spans a 2.065 km strait between the Indian mainland and Pamban island. The mainland end of the bridge is located at . The bridge is located in the world's second most corrosive environment after Florida, making its maintenance a challenging job. The location is also a cyclone-prone high wind velocity zone.
The railway bridge is located 12.5 metres (41 ft) above sea level and is 6,776 ft (2,065 m) long. The bridge consists of 143 piers and has a double-leaf bascule section with a Scherzer rolling type lift span that can be raised to let ships pass. Each half of the lifting span weighs 415 tonnes (457 tons). The two leaves of the bridge are opened manually using levers.
Plans for a bridge to connect to mainland was suggested in 1870 as the British Administration sought ways to increase trade with Ceylon. The construction began in August 1911 and was opened on 24 February 1914. The adjacent road bridge was opened in 1988.
The bridge was damaged during the 1964 Rameswaram cyclone and required repair work. Strengthening work was carried out on the bridge under the supervision of E. Sreedharan in 2009 to enable it to carry goods trains. On 13 January 2013, the bridge required repair work to the piers after suffering minor damage from a naval barge. In 2016, the Ministry of Railways sanctioned ₹25 crore (US$3.5 million) to replace the existing 65.23 metres (214.0 ft) long rolling type span with a 66 metres (217 ft) long single truss span which could be opened automatically.
The railway bridge carried metre gauge trains connecting Mandapam on mainland India to Pamban. Indian Railways upgraded the bridge to carry broad gauge trains and the work was completed on 12 August 2007. From Pamban, the railway line bifurcated, one line towards Rameshwaram about 6.25 miles (10.06 km) up and another branch line of 15 miles (24 km) terminating at Dhanushkodi. Boat mail express runs from Chennai Egmore to Rameswaram. The train ran up to Dhanushkodi until 1964 when the metre-gauge branch line from Pamban to Dhanushkodi was destroyed during the 1964 Dhanushkodi cyclone.
The construction works of Pamban Road bridge was commenced on 17 November 1974 by the Indian Highway department and contracted to M/S Neelakandan Brothers Engs, Madras. After the 1978 cyclone the work was carried out slowly, and few years later the contract was given to the New Gammon India Ltd. The Government sanctioned 16.6514 crore INR by 1986. The work was completed on 1988.
On 23 December 1964, an estimated 7.6 m (25 ft) storm surge struck the island, overturning the Pamban-Dhanuskodi passenger train killing all 150 passengers on board. On 13 January 2013, the bridge suffered minor damage when a naval barge drifted into it.