After the Majerhat bridge collapse on September 4, the public works department (PWD) of West Bengal government has identified seven Kolkata bridges as “most vulnerable” saying they require urgent repairs.
The seven bridges are out of the 20 that the PWD has classified as “distressed” structures.
The seven Kolkata bridges labelled as “most vulnerable” are Bijon Setu, Gouribari Aurobindo Setu, Belgachhia bridge, Tollygunge Circular Road bridge, Dhakuria bridge, Tallah bridge and Santragachi bridge.
“Load-bearing capacities of these bridges were carried out and depending on that report, we have suggested to the police to impose restriction on goods-carrying vehicles to prevent further deterioration of the condition of the distressed structures,” a senior official of the department told PTI.
The Kolkata Police have already banned movement of all goods carrier vehicles on Bijon Setu, Gouribari Aurobindo Setu, Belgachhia bridge, Tollygunge Circular Road bridge.
A senior Kolkata Traffic Police officer said they were now exploring the possibility if a similar decision could be taken for the remaining ones.
However, with overloaded vehicles still plying on the bridges, especially at night, leading to traffic snarls, several trucks would remain stranded on the structures which might lead to another mishap, the PWD official told PTI.
The PWD is preparing a detailed budget and a plan for immediately taking up the repair work of the seven bridges, the official said.
According to the PTI report, the department is also carrying out inspection of the remaining 13 bridges, including Dhakuria bridge, Tallah bridge, Sukanta Setu and Santragachchi bridge, following which they will either be labelled as “vulnerable or relatively safe”.
“Inspection is being carried to test the load-bearing capacity of Dhakuria bridge and Tallah bridge so that a decision can be taken on the type of vehicles whose movement may be restricted,” said the PWD official.
A PWD team has carried out separate surveys at Sukanta Setu, which connects Jadavpur with Santoshpur, and at the Karunamoyee bridge that links Tollygunge to Haridevpur.
“Sukanta Setu has developed cracks in some places and requires repair work. But there is a need of a survey of the structure to ascertain the extent of damage,” said the official.
Talking about the Santragachhi bridge, the PWD official said “poor condition” of the bridge was a cause of worry.
“Santragachhi bridge is a vital bridge but a recent survey suggests that it requires immediate repair on urgent basis. We think we must have a separate plan for Santragachhi bridge because it is used by several hundreds of trucks bringing in supply to the city and the suburbs,” he said.
Talking about the Sealdah bridge, the PWD official said that the government was working on options for shifting the shopkeepers to some other locations before starting “immediate” restoration work there.
“Sealdah bridge is a crucial one in the city which also immediately requires urgent repairs. But markets and shops need to be shifted first before we start carrying out the renovation and restoration works,” the official pointed out.
Talking about the budget for carrying out the repair works at these bridges, the official hinted that it could run into several crores because the restoration work would differ from bridge to bridge.
After estimating the cost, the state government would float tender and it would be done in “a very short time,” the official added.
On whether the bridges were maintained properly or there were lapses on part of the government, the official said, “People have forgotten that bridges have a shelf life and require regular monitoring apart from auditing and maintenance. But these critical parts were ignored and hence bridges have reached such a structurally distressed state.”
Meanwhile, officials of Eastern Railway spoke about receiving a letter from the Public Works Department (PWD) on the construction of culverts on the canal and level crossing at Majerhat station. “We have received a letter last evening from the state government on the construction of culverts on the canal and level crossing which would be part of the proposed roads,” said R.N. Mahaptra, spokesperson of Eastern Railway.
“Our technical engineers are looking into the matter and if required might visit the spot in a day or two, added Mr Mahapatra.
Ruling out the talks of objections to level crossings at Majerhat station, the spokesperson said, “We have no problems in construction of culverts. However, the technical team will study the entire matter before reaffirming anything,” he added.
Three persons lost their lives while 24 others sustained injuries in the September 4 collapse of the Majerhat bridge, which connected the city centre with Behala, vast areas of the south west suburbs and neighbouring South 24 Parganas district.