The VK Raina committee, an expert panel on bridges from Mumbai, which the state government had hired to provide recommendations on the Tallah bridge is said to have recommended the dismantling of the bridge in its report submitted to the state chief secretary, Rajiva Sinha. The fate of the bridge, however, is likely to be decided at a meeting to be chaired by the chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday.
The VK Raina committee, mandated with the examination of the ailing Tallah bridge, made nearly the same recommendation that public consultancy firm RITES did, according to sources in the state secretariat. RITES, in its report submitted earlier to the state government, had recommended the complete overhauling of the bridge by pulling down the entire structure. “The interim findings of the expert committee led by VK Raina were submitted to the chief secretary Rajiva Sinha yesterday. The report will now be vetted by the secretary of the public works department (PWD). Then it will be sent to the chief minister for her final decision on the future of the bridge, for which a high level meeting has been convened on Saturday,” said an official at Nabanna.
Nabanna sources said that the panel, which had conducted its examination of the bridge during the four-day Durga Puja festivities, has called for its “restructuring’ since the bridge which had been constructed in 1962 was almost “rotten’ and badly needed to be restructured. The state government, earlier at a high-level meeting held at Nabanna with the experts of RITES, PWD, KMDA, Metro Rail. Railways, CP Kolkata police and CP Barrackpore had decided that only vehicles weighing less than three tons would be allowed to ply on the bridge.
All buses and other heavy vehicles had been barred from the bridge, leading to massive traffic diversion. With the Tallah bridge being out of bounds for bus passengers, the resultant traffic snarls just before the pujas caused chief minister Mamata Banerjee to trained her guns at the Railways for the wretched condition of the bridges while brushing aside a purported proposal to allow buses on the ailing Tallah bridge till 12 October when the meeting scheduled at Nabanna on that day would take a fresh look at the issue after reviewing the condition of the bridge.
Passing the buck on the Railways for the failing health of the Tallah bridge, the chief minister said at a high-level meeting held at Nabanna before the pujas that the railways was to blame for turning a blind eye to the appraisal reports sent by the state government from time to time.
”Railways had not taken steps for proper upkeep of the Tallah bridge for long. It is because of their sheer apathy that the condition of the bridge has assumed such an alarming proportion where we have been forced to discontinue plying of buses. This too came despite appraisal reports from the PWD to the Railways being sent from time to time. And the condition now has come to such a pass that only vehicles less than three tons would be allowed to ply on the bridge,” the chief minister said at the meeting.
With first the RITES (Rail India Technical and Economic Service) and now the VK Raina panel, a Mumbai-based expert body on bridges, recommended its replacement or complete overhaul, a former government engineer, on condition of anonymity, said that though the final call on the fate of the bridge is to be taken by the chief minister, the state government had hardly any option left.