The Konkan Railway, 741-kilometre line connects Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka States — a region of criss-crossing rivers, plunging valleys and mountains that soar into the clouds. Apart from setting a trend for other infrastructure projects in the country, the Konkan Railway provides concrete proof of the skills of Indian engineers, their discipline, team spirit and courage. On July 19, 1990, the Konkan Railway Corporation Limited (KRCL) was incorporated as a public limited company and E. Sreedharan, a senior railway official, as its first Chairman and Managing Director. The company set itself a challenging target of five years to complete the work. With a total number of over 2,000 bridges and 91 tunnels to be built through this mountainous terrain containing many rivers, the project was the biggest and perhaps most difficult railway undertaking during this century, at least in this part of the world. There were challenges posed by the terrain and the elements. Flash floods, landslides and tunnel collapses affected work at many places on the project. The region was also thickly forested, and construction sites were often plagued by wild animals.
To enable quicker construction, several innovative practices were adopted. Piers for major bridges were cast on the riverbanks itself and launched using cranes mounted on pontoons. The technique of incremental launching of bridge spans was used for the first time in India. The biggest challenge, however, came from the nine tunnels that had to be bored through soft soil. No technology existed anywhere in the world for this purpose and the work had to be carried out through a painstakingly slow manual process. Excavation was almost impossible due to the clayey soil that was saturated with water owing to a high water table in the region. Several times tunnels collapsed immediately after they had been dug, necessitating work to be redone. Nineteen lives and four years were lost while constructing the soft soil tunnels alone. In all, seventy-four people perished during the construction of the line. Trains carrying passengers started running along the full route between Mumbai and Mangalore from May 1998.