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|December 13, 1997||
Konkan rail clears last hurdleP Rajendran in Pernem
The last stumbling block coming in the way of the ambitious Konkan Railway project -- the 1.56 km Pernem tunnel in Goa -- was broken to smithereens early on Saturday morning.
The challenging task was accomplished after nearly four years of hazardous work, involving geotechnical problems like brittle rock, repeated appearance of loose soil and water.
Massive rocks and soil came crashing down time and again, claiming the lives of about eight labourers.
Even on Thursday, a small section of the hillside caved in, creating anxiety. But, luckily, no one was injured.
Despite such accidents, the project team never gave up.
In the last lap of the project, the idea of using explosives had to be abandoned as the rock proved too soft.
Though the two sides of the Pernem tunnel met at 0430 hours today, the first contact between the southern and the northern teams was established at 1230 hours yesterday, when a small hole in the unfinished portion of the tunnel brought cheer among the workforce and the engineering team.
Powered by its delight, the workforce stepped up its efforts though the tunnel was intensely hot and humid, drenching the workers in sweat. By late evening they made a 30x30 cm hole at the top.
The work continued, and hours later the tunnel was ready.
Though a little more excavation work remains, the workforce at the site seems relieved. Now that the tunnel heading is complete, the remaining work will be completed in a month, the engineers said.
''It's a fruition of years of hard work,'' said a worker at the southern end of the tunnel as the engineers and the workforce stood in contented circles for a group photograph.
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