Suez Canal is back in the news again. This time with some constructive news.
Earlier this month, the two components of the horizontal railway bridge across the eastern waterway were simultaneously tested and docked successfully, making it the largest swing railway bridge in the world when it connects to the El Ferdan Railway Bridge.
Even while the Suez Canal is on a pedestal when it comes to waterways, the construction of a railway bridge over the canal is riddled with mishaps and destruction. The first bridge across the canal was built over a century ago in 1918 but later removed to favor water-based transport. Another bridge was built during the Second World War but an accident rendered it useless. The other two attempts to build a bridge over the next few decades were successful but the bridges were destroyed during conflicts.
At the turn of the millennium, the current El Ferdan bridge was built, but the planned expansion of the Suez Canal in 2014 has put it out of service. Now, the second bridge, built as part of the Belt and Road Initiative by the China State Construction Engineering Company (CSCEC) is expected to connect the rail lines again and resume services.
The new structure that weighs 14,000 tons is made up of steel plates that are up to six inches (150 mm) thick. With a maximum length of 131 feet (40 m), these plates can weigh up to 152 tons each and needed innovations in modular unit manufacturing, the press release said. The plates have been welded together to make the east and west bridges.
The new bridges feature two railway tracks that move into position and dock successfully within 18 minutes. The railway passage time over the bridge is expected to be three minutes as against the ferry that takes 30 minutes for a round trip, the press release said. When completed, these bridges will be connected to the El Ferdan bridge over the older canal making it the largest horizontal swing railway bridge in the world.